Operation Flamingo

Finnish airship development company Kelluu, have successfully completed their first out of sight mission with an unmanned aerial vehicle – a hugely significant step for the UAV industry.

At their facility in Joensuu, eastern Finland, Kelluu Ltd. are developing a concept for a small robotic airship, which has now progressed to the operational testing stage. On the morning of Friday 26th March, their airship successfully completed its first mission: flying completely out of sight, entirely on automatic flight control, and at the same time gathering data from the surrounding area and relaying the information onward. This is a major development for the unmanned aerial vehicles industry – a high performance airship, capable of long flight time and extensive range, combined with a functioning autopilot, plus real-time data gathering and transmission capability in the same package. Nothing similar has been produced elsewhere.

The mood at Kelluu is really enthusiastic.

-This was our longest test flight and at the same time our first completed operation. It was great to prove that the airship we developed, and the ship’s control systems, both play together flawlessly, says Jouni Lintu, Kelluu’s CEO.

The success of this first mission confirmed the airship is perfectly suited to the task for which it was primarily developed – to gather information on the condition of power lines over far distances. The advantage of the Kelluu airship is the capacity for extremely long flight time compared to, for example, drones and helicopters. This allows information to be collected from wide areas more efficiently than at present and with less environmental impact.

The airship’s camera and data system also operate in an exceptional way. The ship can transmit information in real time, instead of saving to a removable hard disk, which naturally brings considerable benefits to the customer.

This is a significant step forward in the industry of unmanned aerial vehicles worldwide.

-This hasn’t been done anywhere else in the world. We’ve managed to develop a very efficient airship, capable of gathering and relaying data in real time continuously from a very wide area. The operation was considered long lasting in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles, yet we still only used a small part of the whole flight time capacity. It seems that we will very soon achieve what we planned all along – operational times that last days, says Jiri Jormakka, Kelluu’s COO.

Following the successful flight, Kelluu will continue their plan to further develop the product.

-We’ve managed to get a lot done in a short space of time and with smaller resources than are usual in the UAV industry. By increasing our resources in the future, we’ll be able to massively speed up development, prove the benefits to customers, and scale our business operations accordingly. We have ambitious goals for the near future and we look forward to achieving them, says Jormakka.

Kelluu Ltd. develops small scale, self-flying airship concepts based on hydrogen technology. Their facility in Joensuu is the only airship factory and product development laboratory in Northern Europe. Thanks to their extremely long flight time, the airships developed by Kelluu can be utilised in real time information gathering over long distances, in an efficient and environmentally friendly way. The first confirmed application for the Kelluu airships is real time surveillance of power lines from the air.

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