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New Finnish centre looks to solve future challenges in aviation

The work done at LIFT will help to spur the creation of commercial solutions for drone logistics, among other outcomes.Adobe

LIFT, a centre bringing together stakeholders from the private and public sectors to innovate in the aerospace domain, has begun its operations in Finland.

Hosted by Redstone Aero, a company building a network of digital airports, the centre seeks to promote research and development co-operation on future aviation solutions while supporting the emergence of new aerospace businesses in Finland.

Joining the centre in the first stage are the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI), the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences (XAMK) and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. VTT in September revealed that its focus at the centre will be trained on drone swarms, urban air mobility, aerospace management for unmanned aviation, and automation of aviation solutions.

“VTT sees the role of unmanned aviation growing rapidly worldwide,” saidHannu Karvonen, senior scientist at VTT. “Finland must seize these revolutionary opportunities and aim for a pioneering role.”

Unmanned aviation has garnered plenty of public attention this year due to its use for, for example, defence purposes. The proliferation of such solutions will require that unmanned aviation is integrated safely with traditional aviation, reminded Tomi Oravasaari, professional pilot and head of the North European Logistics Institute at XAMK.

The co-operation and aerodrome environment offered by LIFT, he envisioned, will support the university’s research efforts to develop both methods for coordinating manned aviation and drone operations, and practical solutions for long-distance drone flights between airports.

“This paves the way for the emergence of commercial solutions for drone logistics, among other things,” he told.

The Finnish Government invested 2.5 million euros in building the future air traffic testbed and research centre. Image: Redstone Aero

The FGI, meanwhile, has established itself as an expert in spatial drone-related research, an area that is to have a key role in developing autonomous and low-emission aviation applications.

“In research we are developing more efficient, accurate and reliable methods for both localisation and navigation of drones and data analysis,” summed up Eija Honkavaara, research professor at the FGI.

The aviation industry is in the grip of a major transformation brought about by the travel restrictions adopted over the coronavirus pandemic and airspace limitations imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Future challenges lie ahead, too, with new types of air transport services ranging from unmanned logistics drones to air taxis and smaller commercial airlines creating a need for a more flexible and efficient infrastructure. Redstone Aero believes the development will increase the importance of sites such as its Helsinki-East Aerodrome.

“At LIFT, we are developing a concept that allows airports to be planned, built, licensed and operated more efficiently than before,” said Esa Korjula, board chairperson at Redstone Aero.

By: Aleksi Teivainen