Agile experiment in Tampere, Finland: large area surveillance with drones16.2.2023
Surveillance of large areas is one of the most interesting use cases for drones. In Tampere, Finland, an agile experiment was conducted to test the potential of drones in surveillance and creating a situational awareness of a large target area. The experiment was carried out in cooperation between Insta and Business Tampere, with the participation of several authorities.
Warehouses, depots, commercial properties and similar sites are often monitored by traditional methods of surveillance, such as CCTV cameras and motion detectors. When necessary, someone uses a car to make an on-the-spot inspection.
The main idea of the agile experiment was to test whether drones would be able to conduct the surveillance of this kind of sites. Using drones might reduce the need for human presence and support the surveillance of large areas.
– Drones might also do internal surveillance of a large area, monitor its perimeter or surroundings for e.g. trespassing or illicit observation, says Petri Koskinen, Senior business advisor, safety and security, at Business Tampere.
The main objectives of the agile experiment were to create situational awareness picture, and share and communicate it. Also, gathering experience on how drone surveillance and producing situational awareness would work as a service.
– We aimed to test and demonstrate the use of UAS systems: two aerial vehicles were used simultaneously during the experiment. We demonstrated gathering data from various sources into the situational awareness solution and presenting it there, says Ari Nissinen, Development Manager, UAS at Insta ILS.
Additionally, the aim was to collect information to prepare for an upcoming, bigger experiment which might be organised in the urban area. Insta was gathering customer feedback for their product development.
Teisko Airfield, an obvious choice
The agile experiment was conducted at the Teisko Airfield, owned by the City of Tampere. The location was suitable for the experiment; rural, remote, resembling a large storage area with a long perimeter to monitor.
Operating drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) was a part of the agile experiment, and it is particularly strictly regulated. However, Insta is testing their drones at the Teisko Airfield, so the company is already authorised to operate UAS in the area.
– Insta also has a private LTE network in Teisko, with a high-performance multi-copter system that enabled the experiment to be carried out, says Nissinen.
The first thing to do in all Insta aerial operations is a safety assessment, therefore the Teisko agile experiment started by examining the operation, the operating environment, equipment and participating personnel. Persons involved and imaged in the experiment scenario were able to give their consent to the data processing. The GDPR requirements were thus more straightforwardly fulfilled than in the Särkänniemi event security experiment.
Agile experiment schedule
The schedule of the Teisko experiment was divided in two parts: the morning was for companies, the afternoon for the authorities. This enabled the organisers to discuss the needs of both groups separately.
– I think the authorities were surprisingly eager to participate in the experiment, for example police, emergency services and the Finnish Defence Forces were represented, says Nissinen.
The program of the experiment included presentations of Nokia Drone Networks Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) operating in the LTE private network, and a smaller UAS by DJI. Also used in the experiment were the Insta Blue Aware product family: IBA situational awareness solution and supplementary software.
Scenario: how to monitor a trespasser
The potential of drones was demonstrated in a scenario, which began with a security system alert from one of the buildings in the area. More information was needed promptly, and a drone was dispatched.
– With a drone, a person was seen leaving the area by a car, and it was possible to follow him with the UAS for several kilometres, explains Nissinen.
The scenario included the target person to enter a woody area and hide something there. After that a demonstrated patrol went on the scene to search the stash and provided live video feed to the simulated situation centre.
– The situational awareness system displayed the location of the patrol and the aerial vehicles in real time, and all the gathered data as well, says Nissinen.
Authorities interested in shared situational awareness
Using drones is not new for the authorities in the Tampere Region. But producing information, enriching and sharing it in the Insta situational awareness system aroused a lot of interest. Sharing information in authorities’ own systems is not easy, as they are closed systems for safety and data security reasons.
– On the other hand, our IBA system was used as a shared platform between event organiser and the authorities in an experiment we organised in the Ruisrock festival. This made the shared situational picture available for everyone involved, and that was on of the most significant observations in the Teisko experiment as well, says Nissinen.
UAS Development Manager Ari Nissinen thinks that agile experiments are useful. Even though Insta ILS is an expert in avionics, remotely piloted aircraft systems and high tech, it still finds worthwhile to gather customer feedback and drone user needs through experiments.
– Experiments will always bring up views and details that are not obvious in the meeting room, summarises Nissinen.
Insta ILS Vice President Alex Lassila points out that experiments may also help create new partnerships. A drone is an excellent cooperation platform, because it can carry many different payloads; various sensors, actuators and deliverables.
– A drone’s strength is its versatility. It is important to collaborate, so that each partner may provide their own expertise for the drone. Thus the outcome will be significantly better than the one gained by each company on their own, says Lassila.
Future of drones
The regulation to harmonise drone operation throughout the EU entered into force on 31 December 2020. Firm knowledge of the rules is required of all persons responsible for drone operations in the experiments. Insta is keeping a keen eye on how the regulations will develop and what kind of drone solutions are possible in the future.
– We want to be fully involved because we have the expertise and enthusiasm to make the future of drones, says Lassila.
– We hope that the legislation advances while certification of aerial vehicles is increasing, and their safety along with it. This sort of development would enable operating drones more freely above urban areas, says Koskinen of Business Tampere.
Multi-client drone concept under development
One of the objectives of the project is to examine multi-client drone service and the business opportunities it opens. Multi-client drones might provide services for e.g. event organisers, city traffic management and rescue services.
– The project aim is to design a concept to accomplish operating beyond visual line of sight from a centralised flight control. The concept would include shared charging and liftoff stations for drones, says Koskinen.
The project has surveyed the legislative and structural possibilities of a multi-client drone service. It has also been noticed that the drone devices are developing rapidly. There are a lot of open questions, but agile experiments will be advancing the plans.
– Regarding the multi-client drone service, it is important to find the application areas and service models that enable a commercially viable running of the service, says Nissinen.
– There are many opportunities in multi-client drone service. We are currently at the stage where the more we experiment, the more we learn. Then we just need to try and develop further the most healthy concepts, says Lassila.
The project: Automatic Multi-client Drone Service, an economic development project for new business models, 1.1.2022–31.10.2023, funding by Pirkanmaan liitto, AKKE funding.