Drones use cases – observations made in the Särkänniemi agile experiment19.1.2023
Unmanned aviation has developed rapidly in the recent years. In the Tampere City Region, there was an agile experiment to examine the drone use cases. Insta provided the drones and situational awareness solution, the theme park Särkänniemi the events; Business Tampere coordinated.
Tampere-based Insta ILS is a specialist in avionics, remotely piloted aircraft systems and high tech. It is naturally interested in experiments where the company’s fields of expertise are needed and solutions can be tested.
– Imagination is probably the only limit for potential drone use cases. We want to play a part in the development because we see new business opportunities, and a way to improve our customer services, says Alex Lassila, Vice President, Aviation at Insta ILS.
– Unmanned aviation opens a lot of possibilities to improve urban safety and security. However, operating drones above urban areas is also strictly regulated, says Ari Nissinen, Development Manager, UAS at Insta ILS.
Lassila estimates that drone usage in event security is increasing significantly. For example, venues can be proactively inspected and their bottlenecks outlined with drones. While the event is happening, drones can be used to obtain real-time data on traffic, crowd flows and security issues.
Knowledge of data protection is important
Data protection is a fundamental issue, recognised in many drone projects. In the Särkänniemi agile experiment, data protection policies were reviewed as GDPR agreements had to be in force between all parties before the experiment could be launched.
– I think this worked out well. Insta has been implementing similar projects previously, for example last summer when we were at the Ruisrock festival with our Insta Blue Aware (IBA) situational awareness system, says Nissinen.
Miikka Nenonen, Field Operations Manager at Särkänniemi, tells that the theme park informs their visitors of the video surveillance in the area. The visitors usually take it positively, because surveillance makes them feel safe and comfortable.
– Our event security is based on careful planning and knowing the qualities of each event we are organising. Then we can plan ahead and see if the event in question requires some measures that a not already in our daily routine, says Nenonen.
When operating drones, one must know regulations
The regulation to harmonise drone operation throughout the EU entered into force on 31 December 2020. There are circa 450 pages of the regulations, therefore anyone operating an UAS should really know the rules in order to obey them.
– In this experiment, we operated in the ’open’ category, which allowed to fly a small drone temporarily over individual people, but not above assemblies of people. Another sub-category allows flying a bit heavier drone, but must keep at least 50 metres distance from any people not participating in the operation, explains Nissinen.
In the Särkänniemi area the operating altitude was restricted to 50 metres because the Tampere-Pirkkala Airport in near.
Observations: monitoring traffic and security
Monitoring the flow of traffic has proved to be a significant use case for drones, especially when events are causing only occasional traffic jams. In that case permanent surveillance cameras may not be needed, but drones could be used to monitor traffic congestion in several locations.
Congestion data can be utilised to control the traffic. According to Nenonen, traffic jams could be alleviated by controlling traffic lights in cooperation with the City of Tampere, and informing the visitors to favour public transport when possible. Reducing traffic jams is also another way to improve customer experience.
Concerts held near lakes, like the ones organised in Särkänniemi, attract boat traffic. It is easy to monitor by drones, and in case of an emergency, rescue operations could be facilitated with the situational picture produced by a drone.
A thermal camera proved to be an excellent tool after dark. The experiment included a target person who stayed in the amusement park after the concert and had his location tracked by a drone.
– Our thermal camera contributed in an excellent way to existing surveillance camera system in the area, says Nissinen.
Other use cases for drones: maintenance, inspection
In the Särkänniemi agile experiment, other drone use cases were also considered: for example inspecting the amusement park rides, various maintenance tasks, like winter maintenance.
– In the Näsineula observation tower or the higher rides of Särkänniemi would certainly provide uses for drones, as they would open views that human eyes will not usually catch. A drone can see, but for the maintenance we’ll still need an aerial work platform and people, says Nenonen.
– Generally speaking, we noticed that drone use cases were considerably more versatile than we were thinking at the beginning of the project, says Koskinen.
According to Koskinen, one of the experiment’s outcomes was that drones can be used in a wide variety of event security purposes. When preparing for the an event, drones can be used to predict which routes audience will take when they arrive. During the events drones can gather data in the venue: on what, when or where audience is doing. Drones can provide real-time situational awareness data and perform disturbance monitoring.
After the event drones provide data on the routes audience use to leave the venue, their timing and whether they’ve all left the venue. Traffic flows can be monitored in the nearby areas. Additionally, drones can monitor the venue for trespassers also outside event hours.
Experiments increase understanding
Business Tampere began the project by examining the drone use cases with the potential users, especially the use cases that would be locally the most interesting and feasible. The representatives of police, rescue and emergency services, City traffic management and Finnish Defence Forces were getting their ideas heard.
– There was also many companies represented: the ones using drone services, service providers and drone tech developers, says Koskinen.
– It is excellent to launch bold experiments so open-mindedly. That is the only way to obtain potential ideas for further development, says Lassila.
Lassila is certain that Insta will participate in similar experiments later. They tend to increase the company’s visibility, provide potential new beginnings and collaboration opportunities.
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.
Author: Päivi Stenroos