Private firm seeks to reserve huge airspace in Lapland for testing of unmanned aerial vehicles
Permanent reservation of airspace would call for change in law
The private Tampere-based firm Robonic Ltd wishes to reserve a large block of airspace in Eastern Lapland for testing of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) manufactured by the company’s foreign clients
For three months this summer, Robonic would like to reserve an area of up to 11,000 square kilometres in size.
According to Robonic managing director Juha Moisio, the aim is to place a permanent reservation for the airspace. That way the company could activate parts of the area depending on how much airspace is needed even on the morning of the test day. During that time the use of the activated area would be prohibited to other aircraft.
Such an arrangement would require changes to the law. In its present form, the law enables instituting fly bans only for two weeks at a time.
At least initially, there is preparedness within the Ministry of Transport and Communication to contemplate such a possible amendment, Counsellor Mikael Nyberg states. The Aviation Act has to revised in any case because of new EU regulations. In the same instance the possibility of renting airspace to private clients and the price for such activity could be looked into.
The UAV drones are unable to dodge other air traffic in the same fashion as a manned plane. In some countries, UAVs are allowed to fly only if there is a manned plane accompanying them.
In Lapland the possibility of a mid-air collision would be avoided by reserving a large enough airspace for the sole use of UAVs. Such a possibility simply does not exist in the more congested parts of Europe.
There is little flight activity in large areas above the backwoods of Lapland. "An understanding could be reached with the small flying club of Kemijärvi", Moisio believes.
Still, executive director Kai Mönkkönen of the Finnish Aeronautical Association (FAA), the national and central organization of sport aviation in Finland, is taken aback by the very idea that airspace could be private.
The airspace craved by Robonic would cut off the route used by those civil aviators wanting to fly from Southern Finland into Lapland without having to go through the Rovaniemi military air-traffic control area. The use of the Rovaniemi airspace would require permission from the military.
"How could anybody reserve a giant slice of the national airspace for their own commercial purposes and cut off everybody else?” asks an astonished Mönkkönen.
Kemijärvi city manager Timo A. Korva is in favour of the Robonic plans. The city plans to extend the runway of its small airport from 1.5 to 2.5 kilometres to accommodate the UAV demands.
"The Robonic plan would contribute to Kemijärvi’s technology environment image. Furthermore, the UAV people would become significant users of the city’s tourism services", Korva reasons.
Wikipedia: Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)