The drones are coming - and we're not ready yet
In the future flying drones of various sizes will replace vans, trains and trucks. Not only will drones be used to transport goods for companies such as nemlig.com, amazon.com and zalando.com, but they will be used in business operations and to service organisations. They will be used for inspection of hard-to-access infrastructure (such as offshore wind turbines and oil platforms), road and building inspections, rescue missions, surveillance, traffic control and fire extinguishing.
Technologically, drones have the potential to transform large part of goods transportation. For example, they can provide prescription drugs within 20 minutes to elderly people who are less mobile and send food or other important items to remote locations. Start-ups, high-tech giants and others have therefore begun to invest in the innovative technologies needed to make the delivery and transport of drones a reality.Package delivery has already been started in China and in the US, UPS has been fully licensed to do the same. Now is the moment to invest time, money and energy into getting the infrastructure in the air ready for the drones.
There are some players who are trying to build the ideal AirMap UAS Traffic Management (UTM) platform / digital infrastructure, but whether they sucees is uncertain. Adding that all drones must have a chip mounted for tracking on the UTM platform makes it even more complex. It may be feasible for future produced drones, but for existing drones it will be difficult. In Germany, attempts are made to motivate chips by making regulation in the area by ensuring a SIM card in the drone is required and making it easy to buy a SIM card in local Deutsche Telekom stores.
Where do the drones fly – and when?
Regulators will have to play a critical role in establishing comprehensive guidelines for everything from vehicle requirements to airspace management. In addition, industry stakeholders must educate the public to address basic concerns about air mobility, including safety. But one of the most important things is to get an overview and control of the entire infrastructure. We need to know, how, where and when drones can fly. And that safety is being secured in the air.
All of Denmark’s neighboring countries are looking at the lower airspace infrastructure, which will be far more than twice as populated by drone flights from companies as the upper airspace is by airplanes.
Here in Denmark, we need to take a look at which routes the drones should fly to bother as few people as possible. This will mean examining the right time in the day that theycan fly, and how the different drone carriers must fly in relation to each other.
We need an overall control and security manager to so. Today Naviair manages the overall responsibility for the upper Danish airspace and could therefore be an obvious candidate to get control of all infrastructure regarding drones too.
There are many benefits to Denmark to be becoming a leader in drone transport. For example, the roads will be less congested with traffic, which will benefit the environment and citizens. For Denmark to become a leader, there are three prerequisites that need to be in place:
1. Legislation needs to be adjusted
The current Danish rules for drone flights are very restrictive to protect other air traffic, as well as people and objects on the ground, and the possibilities for drone flights are not utilised optimally under the current rules. Therefore, solutions are needed that allow more and more complex drone flights.
2. The technology must be in place
It’s important to understand that drones don’t require the traditional physical infrastructure that we know from cars and trains, e.g. light signals, lanes, and train rails. As drones are ‘born’" in the digital age, drones can "’ettle’ with a digital infrastructure, the goal should be to create a digital infrastructure or UTM where all drones are registered and tracked.
3. The market needs to adopt it and start using it
For drones in Denmark to be successful, it requires the market to adopt the many innovative opportunities offered by drones. This applies both in the B2C organisations, where parcel deliveries are one of the most talked about future scenarios and the B2B organisations, where inspection of, for example, offshore wind turbines or delivery of materials between different addresses are some of the obvious options. The degree of adoption will depend on the legal framework and technological developments.
Soon we won’t be able to remember a life without the use of drones to make life easier, both for organisations, the state and people. And being innovation and transformation consultants we can hardly wait.
This article was first published in Danish Børsen.