Global drone industry drawn to Denmark’s outstanding drone environment

Oct 5, 2022 | Articles, Event, Highlighted, News, Robotics and Drones, Seed and Venture Capital

A minor airport in one of the smallest countries in Europe attracted hundreds of visitors from the international drone industry. The International Drone Show drew 350 participants from Europe and the United States to HCA Airport near Odense, Denmark.

They were there to explore the location’s peerless test facilities, featuring easy access 1,900 km2 of airspace over land and sea, and to experience the full drone ecosystem at the associated conference and exhibition.

Odense, Denmark, as an international hub for drone development

The Danish island of Funen stands alone in gathering together so many members of the drone community in a single place: drone developers and drone manufacturers, drone researchers, drone investors, drone purchasers, defense contractors and more. For eleven years now, Odense – the robot capital of Europe – has been working concertedly to make Denmark an international hub for drone development.

The Danish drone ecosystem now numbers hundreds of drone enterprises, many of which are based in the area close to the airport on Funen, while others simply utilize the facilities there for test flights. Funen is also home to the world-class drone R&D conducted by the University of Southern Denmark.

Drones are set to become an integrated part of our everyday lives in the future: in the agricultural sector, the police, the defense forces, the transport industry and the health care sector.

Here in Denmark, we have a clear ambition of putting ourselves in the driving seat of the drone development bus. What we are doing here has the potential to benefit the whole world.

Simon Kollerup

Danish Minister for Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, Denmark

Odense as the epicenter of the drone industry

Thirty exhibitors, 21 keynotes, and drone companies from around the world descended on Odense, Denmark, for the International Drone Show at HCA Airport on August 30, 2022. The show was organized by UAS Denmark International Test Center and Odense Robotics.

Companies from abroad attended

Among the visitors were 25 Americans, who had committed to traveling more than 5,000 km across the Atlantic Ocean to examine the drones in Denmark. One of them was Kevin Colburn, President, Commaris, Massachusetts, USA, who came to The International Drone Show in Odense because he is keen for his company to expand into Europe. As an added bonus, he found something else of great value for his drone startup:

I decided to check out this drone show to get a better sense of the ecosystem here in Denmark. And so far, I’ve been hugely impressed. There is a large diversity of companies and investors here.

The test facilities for flying Beyond the Visual Line Of Sight, including a vast area over the open water here close to Odense, are seriously attractive. It’s extremely useful for us to be able to fly our UAVs over long distances and for extended periods of time without having to have visual observers stationed every few km on the ground.

Moreover, from what I understand, the rules for doing that sort of testing are pretty flexible – and that’s really attractive to us. 

Kevin Colburn, President, Commaris, USA

President, Commaris, USA

A swarm of hi-tech bees surrounded the airport

Like a swarm of hi-tech bees, drones of all shapes and sizes buzzed and bustled through the air around HCA Airport. The exhibitors had the chance to showcase their solutions and to present a wide range of drone applications: for example, localizing missing persons through the chips in their cellular phones, or using the flying robots to reconnoiter a given area before deciding to send in vulnerable human beings. Far and away the biggest drone at the exhibition was presented by Airflight, which makes drones a viable alternative to cranes and ships in the context of inspecting and maintaining offshore wind turbines, for example, and delivering the spare parts required. Nordic Wing was proud to present a solar powered drone shaped like a small glider plane and with the capacity to remain in the air from sunup to sundown.

A helpful, condensed drone cluster

Christina Krywka, founder of the German drone startup Daxi Lab, flew up in her own Cessna, taking off from the German city of Kiel and landing at HCA Airport near Odense to visit the Danish drone extravaganza. Christina came to the show to seek out business partners for her drone technology, which features X-ray inspection systems, and she found that the International Drone Show was perfectly suited to her needs.

There are no drone clusters like this in Germany, and I think Odense offers a unique infrastructure and a highly condensed drone cluster, which can be extremely helpful to us as a young startup.

Compared to Germany, where there is considerable aversion to new technologies such as drones or autonomous vehicles in general, Denmark seems more open-minded and focused on automation in aviation.

Christina Krywka

Founder, Daxi Lab, Germany

Test your end-to-end flying operations

A number of the visitors and exhibitors who came to the event at HCA Airport were there to decide whether they should establish a local presence in the Odense area in order to become actively involved in Denmark’s robust drone ecosystem. One of the exhibitors – OneSky, which provides Air traffic control for drones – is looking for a permanent base in Europe.

Odense is top of our list. I am excited about the Danish ecosystem, which is distinguished by a high level of activity and a wide range of innovative drone solutions, backed by the best test facilities in Europe. What we see here is the opportunity not only to check whether drones can be operated safely, but also to test the true operational capacity of what operators or manufacturers have set out to prove.

You can test your end-to-end flying operations, including actually operating the drone, integrating it with manned aviation within airport environments, gathering data from offshore inspections, and any other services you are committed to delivering – and then evaluating the entire process.

Toby Potter

Head of Business Development, OneSky.

Bids for ongoing tenders

Some of the exhibitors at the drone show had a specific business interest in promoting their technology, because they have already submitted bids for ongoing tenders in Denmark. One of these is the American company Shield AI, which was showcasing its V-BAT, a UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) used for purposes such as border control, combating drug smuggling and identifying threats.

Others came to the event to cultivate and expand their relationships with customers in both the civilian and military sectors. Still others were there to seek inspiration for how to build up corresponding facilities for the drone industries in their home countries. Representatives of the defense forces were also present, taking a close look at the latest technological opportunities.

The cobot was born in Odense

Drone development is attracting plenty of attention at political level as well. The Danish ministers for commerce and transport, two local mayors and several members of the Danish Parliament had all prioritized visiting the International Drone Show on Funen in the heart of Denmark.

Odense has clearly made a large mark on the drone map, with its dedicated airspace for drone flights and an environment that features a perfect mix of test facilities, research, commercial development and defense force involvement.

Here in Odense, we have demonstrated that the potential in the field of drones is at least as large as that in the area of robots, and we are well on our way to becoming not only the robot capital, but also the drone capital of Europe. With a new partnership agreement – NextGen Drones – we aim to devote appreciable public funds to the drone and robotics ecosystem on Funen, with a view to boosting the global value that Odense and Funen have to offer. 

Peter Rahbæk Juel

Mayor of Odense, Denmark

Islands stand to benefit from drone technology

Trine Bramsen, the Danish Minister for Transport and Minister for Equal Opportunities, was also present at the drone show. She is keen to ensure that regulations keep pace with development and that the market potential is released.

I have no doubt that drones are the future, and that they will have become an integrated part of our transport system as early as 2030. For example, drones can help ensure that everyday life on Denmark’s 72 inhabited islands remains in step with developments in the rest of Danish society.

Trine Bramsen

Danish Minister for Transport for Equal Opportunities, Denmark

Timeline on the drone develupment in the City of Odense

  • 2011: First drone testing at Hans Christian Andersen Airport conducted by Boeing
  • 2012: Test Center is recognized by the Danish defense agreement
  • 2013: UAS Denmark is officially established as a test center and nationwide cluster, and the first companies move in
  • 2015: First BVLOS test campaigns
  • 2015: University of Southern Denmark establishes the UAS research center and equips it with on-site labs
  • 2016: Publication of Denmark’s Drone Strategy reinforces public support for continuing the development of internationally attractive facilities at the UAS Denmark Test Center
  • 2017: UAS Denmark becomes a joint venture involving the Municipality of Odense, the University of Southern Denmark and Hans Christian Andersen Airport
  • 2017: Inauguration of permanent BVLOS airspace over land and sea
  • 2018: Danish defense agreement stipulates establishment of defense presence at UAS Denmark Test Center
  • 2021: Test center and cluster are divided in two: UAS Denmark Test Center and Odense Robotics
  • 2022: Danish Defence opens a Competence Center at UAS Denmark.
  • 2022: A new partnership – NextGen Drones – aim to devote appreciable public funds to the drone and robotics ecosystem on Funen.

A united city behind the succesfull drone ecosystem

Odense has demonstrated that the potential in the field of drones is at least as large as that in the area of robotics, and we are well on our way to becoming not only the robot capital, but also the drone capital of Europe.

Below please find all the information you need to know about the drone ecosystem in the City of Odense.

NextGen Robotics – a growth consortium for technology and knowledge

NextGen Robotics is Denmark’s beacon of business for robots, drones, and autonomous ship operations – and a growth consortium that through advanced test facilities, ground-breaking demo projects and innovative collaborations will help advance digitalisation and automation in Denmark and globally. 

Further information

Rasmus Torpegaard Festersen

Investment manager - Robotics & drones 

My drive is to help foreign companies in the robotics, drone, tech and automation industry to establish in Odense and connect them to relevant business partners and opportunities in the City of Odense.  My background is within business, sports and leadership in tech – and my knowledge and network are there to help you.

+45 2492 0903