Using new drone technology in Finnmark

Using new drone technology in Finnmark

October 11, 2018
Head of Communication

Drones were flying all over Finnmark county lately, from Alta in the west to Vardø in the east and from Mehamn on the coast to Karasjok on the mountain plateau.

If you caught a glimpse of a drone near a gravel pit lately, it’s worth knowing that the Finnmark Estate Agency (FeFo) is using newly developed drone technology to control aggregate extraction.

The extraction of aggregates is regulated through the Minerals Act and local plans for land use. Any party extracting aggregates must enter into an agreement with the landowner. FeFo, which owns and administers most of the land in Finnmark county, reaches agreements with developers regarding the extraction of gravel and crushed stone in connection with construction work, development projects or other needs for stone construction materials.

The extraction of aggregates (sand, gravel and crushed stone) and natural stone must be agreed with the landowner. The agreement between the landowner and developer regulates the extraction, safety measures and clear-up works, as well as payment. Such an agreement must be entered into before applying for an operating licence.

Control measurements of extractions

FeFo undertakes control measurements of the aggregate extractions during inspections. Such extractions were previously controlled retrospectively by measuring GPS points in the gravel pit in question. However, this was labour-intensive, and the measurements were not completely accurate.

Consequently, FeFo was extremely interested when it heard that the research company Norut could perform the control measurements using drones equipped with radars. The data collected by the drones is used to produce 3D models of the gravel pits. Before and after images provide extremely good calculations of how much aggregate has been extracted during the season.

Norut performed drone measurements at 11 sites between Vardø and Alta last autumn just before the first snowfall of the winter. This year the pilots are criss-crossing Finnmark in a camper van and performing measurements at a total of 18 sites. The purpose of the work is to be able to provide FeFo with good 3D models.

“We manage the natural resources on behalf of our owners, in other words the residents of Finnmark. Consequently, we want better control of our gravel pits. The cooperation with Norut has enabled us to progress the work and get a better overview of the extractions since, in addition to control measuring, we also receive aerial photographs of the extraction sites,” says the Manager of FeFo’s Commercial Department, Kate Persen.

Inspecting power lines

The residents of Finnmark are no latecomers when it comes to technology. The power industry in the county also adopted drone technology at an early stage. In recent years, Norut has inspected the top of power lines for most power companies in Finnmark.

Norut’s pilots use high capacity state-of-the-art multirotor drones to inspect the power lines. These drones are equipped with photographic equipment and various sensors.

“The assignments involve delivering images, videos and other technical data of the power lines. The power companies use this material to plan maintenance work and, as such, safeguard the power supply to the residents of Finnmark people,” says Norut’s Strategic Marketing Director, Bjarne Sætrum, from Norut's office in Alta.

“Using drones instead of helicopters for this type of line inspection enables the power companies to save time and money and reduce the impact on the environment. Furthermore, they get more and better images that can reveal errors earlier and with more precise positions,” says Sætrum.

As the power companies use drones for such inspections, Norut also acquires valuable knowledge and experience that the research community uses to develop the services further.

“In the longer term, we envisage that all the power companies will have drones deployed, which may be sent out and flown autonomously along the power lines and communicate directly with the power companies’ operations base without the need for local pilots. This will revolutionise the way the power lines are monitored. Consequently, the fact that the power companies are using our services now is an extremely good investment for them for the future,” says Bjarne Sætrum, who has considerable experience from the power industry.

VIDEO: See how drones map powerlines.

Drone research

Norut started developing drone technology 15 years ago and was one of the first companies in Norway to gain an operator licence. Norut has special focus on developing the payload, control systems and visualisation of data from the drones. Norut, which collects environmental data in polar regions, was the first company in the world to have flown drones in both the Arctic and Antarctic.

The company has experienced pilots and the necessary permits to fly everything from small multirotor drones to larger fixed-wing aircraft. Norut’s largest unmanned aircraft has a five-metre wingspan and a range of 1,000 km.