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Unmanned wings: when and how drones will jet over Arctic and Far East skies

UAVs are used actively in the Far East by the Russian military

MOSCOW, October 26. /TASS/. The emerging demand for unmanned aviation services in the Far East, North and the Arctic pushes for having own drone-making facilities in the Far East.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are used actively in the East by the Russian military and law enforcers, NGOs and environmental organizations; their modernization is in plans of the energy and mining companies, fishers and foresters, mail deliverers and pipeline or grid operators. However, it is still far away future to see unmanned aerial vehicles working actively in the Far East Federal District. The local projects on drones are only a few now, and the District does not have a single center, producing them. TASS correspondents discussed with experts and scientists future and problems of the new form of aviation and aspects of the aviation vehicles construction in the Far East.

The market of near future

Experts speak about unmanned aviation as a promising and priority market in the Far East, as a sector, which, according to the National Technology Initiative (NTI), would be a basis of the global economy to 2035.

"In the Far East, we shall see developing of what NTI calls "AeroNet" - a market of unmanned aerial systems and vehicles. The biggest demand for those services is exactly in the Far East with its vast territories and the necessary monitoring from the air," Director for Development of the Innovative Ecosystem at the Russian Venture Company (RVC) Alexei Gusev told TASS during NTI's project session in Khabarovsk in spring. According to him, "the Far Eastern hectare" (a state program for allocating one hectare to those applying for it), the wildfires, the sea waters and pipelines - those directions make a part of the list, where would be or already are of demand services of monitoring from the air. "Involving engineering, IT companies and others into projects of the kind is an important task, which should be faced today," he added.

Deputy Director of the Natural Sciences School at the Far East Federal University Yuri Kuchin shares this opinion. "In future, development and exploitation of UAVs as an industrial sector may be a high-tech direction with a wide market for using them in the vast and sparsely populated areas of the Far East and the Arctic," the expert said.

Unmanned aviation: dreams and reality

Unmanned aviation is used now in the Far East to serve commercial and non-commercial projects. "Those tasks, which could be really effectively solved with use of drones, now are solved gradually in the Far East. Drones are used mostly for aerial photography and cartography, remote sensing of the Earth of various purposes - the real-time observation," head of the Robotics Center at the Pacific State University Fedor Bezruchko said. According to him, the UAV exploiters are both "a small number of private companies, and state organizations (forestry enterprises, for example)." Drones require investments in buying them, besides top management should pay for training of specialists and then for re-organization of processes in the company. Another reason why drones are not used is that most producers are located in Russia's west - "too far and too expensive to get there [from the East]."

"We have been negotiating with a forestry organization (for about two months now) an unmanned aerial vehicle they need, and we have a certain confidence in the result. Though their budget is limited, we cannot make it cheaper - the parts are expensive. If we have one working contract, we could begin producing one or two types in a small series, and to service them here," he said.

According to him, the science suffers from under-financing of projects related to drones. "At our University, we settle certain specific tasks related to drones, but still the experience we have is not sufficient," he said.

"Cooperation in this direction among universities continues, and mostly in initiating works, but it is at a rather low level because of lacking financing," the expert said.

According to Kuchin, robotics and control systems schools continue working in the region. "Thus, in cooperation with the defense industry's companies in the Far East and companies of the Russian United Aircraft Corporation we could begin rather quickly works on projecting and exploitation of unmanned aerial vehicles," he explained.

Developers: problems and success

Scientific and engineering teams, ready to work on UAVs for flights in conditions of the Far East and the Arctic, are working already. "At the School of Natural Studies and the Far East Federal University's Engineering School jointly with the Academic Institute of Problems of Control, now continues working a team of scientists, developing intellectual unmanned aerial vehicles. They have made working prototypes, and the scientists have structured the collective behavior of such vehicles. We have addressed the (state-run) Fund for Promising Research, asking to support this direction, which is most important for the Far East, but as yet we have received a negative answer," Kuchin said.

The Robotics Center's team also has applied for participation in working on software for drones, where the competition is organized by the Fund. "Our region is proud of Konstantin Sharlaimov, the author of the iNAV controller for drones. Drone fans across the world are using this controller. Not so long ago, a French company installed his controller on a commercial drone. The project is open, non-commercial, though the author has the plans to make it commercial," Bezruchko said.

Another project of the Far Eastern scientists was presented at the Eastern Economic Forum. A company in Sakhalin presented amphibious drones, which are unique for the Far East.

"We have made a prototype of an aerial vehicle, we have a team, technologies, certain equipment, we only need additional investments," an author of the project, Director of the Complex Unmanned Systems Company Alexander Pyrkov said. "We plan locating the new production facility in the Korsakov municipal district, which enjoys the free-port regime. At the end, we shall have a scientific-industrial company with its own runway for testing drones."

The drone may land on the water surface, and the local fishery has expressed interest in it, as they need to monitor the spawning rivers. The oil and gas, as well as geodesy companies also want to have such UAVs.

"In the Far East not a single company produces civil drones," the company's head said. "The demand here is huge."

The capacity of the UAV global market is estimated at six billion dollars. Futurologists say the capacity will grow by six times in 15 years.