“Switzerland has become a bellwether to the global UAV sector, with industry, researchers, academia, government and regulatory authorities all aligned and supporting continued advancements in the industry,” said Matt Julian, Director USA at GGBa, in opening the third webinar of the Virtual Swiss Drone Industry Tour, before giving the floor to the first speaker.
Jens Henkner is the CEO of CertX, the first Swiss certification body for functional safety and cybersecurity, and among the first 10 in the world. As such, CertX co-authors the standards for future automated systems, autonomous mobility and cybersecurity based on its profound technical know-how. It also provides comprehensive safety and security services, such as training and certification of engineers and managers, as well as inspection and certification of products and processes. More specifically in the field of drones, CertX assists in defining necessary technical requirements for the drone or subsystems, certifies systems according to functional and cybersecurity standards, verifies compliance to technical requirements, supports with the SORA approval procedure, and acts as an independent 3rd party test agency for drone parachute. "Switzerland has a large innovation ecosystem, which we are happy to serve," Henkner said.
Guillaume Catry is the co-founder and CEO of WindShape, a Geneva-based company that supports the drone industry with its unique capabilities for R&D, validation, and certification testing. “Drone manufacturers want to develop drone applications that solve problems for society, such as delivering goods from one point to another,” Catry explained, “but before they can get to that point, they need to not only develop competitive drones, but also to validate and certify them to make sure that they can achieve their mission without failing or without endangering people on the ground.” Currently, 95% of drone manufacturers test their products outdoors, while 5% use conventional wind tunnels. Both options are equally unreliable according to Catry, who in 2017 invented the WindShaper, a digital wind and weather facility providing test services designed for drone testing and certification. Scalable and modular, the WindShaper can faithfully recreate any possible weather flight scenario, including the most extreme ones. After an engaging live demo, Guillaume Catry concluded his presentation by reiterating his openness to discuss with anyone involved in the certification or validation of drones.
For companies that are interested in finding a home in Switzerland, swiss aeropole represents an interesting option, as illustrated by the director of its business park Massimo Fiorin. The role of swiss aeropole is two-fold : it manages civil flights at Payerne Airport, and develops an aerospace-focused business and technology park that grew from three to 17 companies in the 18 months of its existence. “There is a momentum of companies joining our ecosystem,” Fiorin commented, “We are currently working to onboard more drone companies – we have one so far – and also to open the site for tests.” Swiss aeropole provides an ideal testing ground, as demonstrated by the success of Solar Impulse, which used the premises for crucial flight tests for five years before its round-the-world flight ; and more recently by SolarStratos, another pioneering project whose goal is to demonstrate the potential of renewable energies, which has established its base on site. A wise choice if you ask Fiorin : “At swiss aeropole, you will find space to develop and grow your company, talented workforce, and a growing community of aerospace companies. We also offer support with whatever matters, from testing, to all the procedures to get established, depending on each company’s individual needs.”
From Payerne in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, the Virtual Swiss Drone Industry Tour then continued to Schaffhausen, and more precisely the Schmerlat airfield, which both Wings for Aid and Daedalean AI use as a testing ground.
Founded by Dutch entrepreneur Barry Koperberg in 2014, Wings for Aid helps humanitarian aid organizations bridge “the last mile” in disaster struck and remote areas, through the development and operation of special-purpose UAVs. Their prototype – a large, remotely piloted cargo drone – needs to be tested according to the highest standards : “We were looking for a country with knowledgeable authorities with experience in SORA (Specific Operations Risk Assessment), appropriate terrain – the mountains are ideal – and a strong humanitarian legacy. Naturally, we ended up in Switzerland,” explained Koperberg, “Switzerland is the perfect place to fly for the first time.” The company intends to make its Swiss presence into a center of excellence, with test and training activities for pilots and ground crews, as well as the home base for flight operations : “The fleet and equipment will be positioned around the world because of our response time, but we intend to establish the home base for flight operations in Switzerland. We feel very welcome here, and experience a lot of professionalism throughout the ecosystem,” Koperberg added.
Anna Chernova Co-founder and CPO of Daedalean AI, also praised the local ecosystem : “We are super pleased with our cooperation with aviation and avionics companies in Switzerland, and the Schmerlat airfield is definitely one of those,” she said. Founded in 2016, Daedalean AI develops autonomous piloting software systems for the civil aircraft of today and the advanced aerial mobility of tomorrow. The company uses not only helicopters and fixed-wing to conduct tests, but also professional drones : “We are lucky to be in a country with interesting terrain and features. For instance, for our first application which is based on vision, we need this type of terrain and weather conditions for flying.” In addition to visual positioning, Daedalean AI is also developing traffic detection and landing guidance applications.