Urban air operations

Without a robust business foundation, the purpose of regulations loses its significance

Monday, 21 August 2023

On July 6 of this year, our moderator Munish Kurana, also Senior Manager of Eurocontrol, ATM/UTM Business Development, asked Stephen Sutton of the Finnish company FlyBy Guys about his experiences in the drone industry. Sutton offered the ADW audience a perspective from the viewpoint of a drone operator.

Stephen Sutton serves as the Group CEO, UAV specialist, and consultant at FlyBy Guys, a company headquartered in Finland that specializes in conducting commercial drone activities. Established in 2018, FlyBy Guys has successfully undertaken a diverse array of operations. These include performing inspections of towers and construction sites, conducting thermal inspections, analyzing traffic management, and orchestrating captivating drone light shows on a global scale.

Since December 2020, FlyBy Guys has been actively engaged in conducting captivating drone light shows. With an accumulated experience of over 200 flights, the team has impressively orchestrated mesmerizing drone light displays across various global destinations, encompassing places like Dubai, Togo, Indonesia, and Taiwan. These showcases exhibit a range of durations and scales, with each production involving as many as 1,500 drones.

Industrial applications

Amid the awe-inspiring spectacle and enthusiasm associated with drone light shows, Sutton emphasized that the company's strategic focus primarily gravitates toward leveraging industrial applications to achieve growth and scalability. While the light shows demand significant effort and induce stress, they represent a passionate undertaking for the team, yielding immense satisfaction. Sutton characterized these displays as an enjoyable pursuit that brings happiness to numerous individuals and forges enduring memories, thereby fostering increased public acceptance of drone technology. “It's widely acknowledged that drone operators face significant pressure. They must balance the need to earn a livelihood for their survival while operating within an evolving ecosystem that's constantly being developed.”

A key challenge Sutton highlighted is the swift authorization of operations by regulatory bodies like the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). To address these challenges, Sutton explored potential solutions. This involves organizations providing greater resources, leveraging technology, and fostering business development in both established and emerging industries. By generating more business opportunities, the inherent value that drones bring to society becomes more evident. “This realization, in turn, garners support from policymakers, regulators, investors, and industry collaborators, leading to substantial improvements in the overall landscape”, Sutton said.

Growth and innovation

The Finnish drone industry stands out as a remarkable illustration of how a harmonious regulatory framework and robust collaboration among diverse entities can nurture both growth and innovation, Sutton argued. “Rather than acting as a hindrance, the regulatory environment has provided an immensely supportive backdrop, playing a pivotal role in the triumph of numerous organizations. Central to this success is the Finnish drone ecosystem, which encompasses a cooperative business community and accommodating regulatory bodies, such as Traficom.”

The collaborative efforts among various stakeholders have empowered enterprises like FlyBy Guys to generate substantial revenue, eliminating the need for excessive investor pursuits. A testament to this accomplishment is the fact that a majority of FlyBy Guys' operations now extend beyond Finland's borders.

Sutton envisioned increased involvement from diverse industries like oil, gas, and telecommunications. “Encouraging operators and hardware manufacturers to collaborate with these sectors is vital, as it offers a more profound insight into our industry and its interconnected ecosystem. While the current presence is truly heartening, the industry's expansion hinges on collective efforts. Presently, the primary emphasis lies on regulatory matters, a crucial aspect yet incomplete on its own. It's imperative to acknowledge that without a robust business foundation, the purpose of regulations loses its significance.”

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