Kelluu’s long-distance, self-flying, hydrogen-powered airships are directly competing with drones by providing a “satellite constellation under the clouds”, said CEO Janne Hietala.
The Finnish aerospace pioneer uses cameras, sensors, and scanners fitted to its aircraft to gather real-time data on terrain, vegetation, and infrastructure.
Kelluu not only provides the aerial monitoring service – it also processes the data to create an accurate 3D digital twin of the environment.
The company recently partnered with Terrafame, a battery chemicals producer for electric vehicles, to monitor and forecast changes at their industrial site and optimise its infrastructure maintenance and production processes.
Speaking to FINN, Hietala said: “There’s been a lot of iterations and a lot of engineering going to create a lighter-than-air unmanned airship that can operate like a drone, in similar conditions, doing similar missions.
“What we’ve been able to accomplish is just an order of magnitude performance. We do flights over 12 hours, but we have capacity to do much longer.”
He added: “We’re not limited by the range and we’re not limited by the radiolink because the operation times and ranges are so huge. It’s due to simple physics, because we don’t need to use energy to stay in the air.
“We use a lifting gas to create a buoyant platform that can use similar sensors as drones. There’s also a safety element with the airships that are lighter than air.”
Kelluu’s airships are highly efficient, emitting 99.5% fewer CO2 emissions than traditional aerial monitoring, and the airships are operational in subzero temperatures.
Hietala added: “Now we’re entering into this digital twin, we can do what drones do, but with much lower cost and economy.
“What we are also enabling is much closer to a satellite constellation under the clouds than with a drone because the operation times are so huge, and the ranges are so huge.”
Kelluu’s facility in Finland is the only airship factory and product development laboratory in Northern Europe.
In addition to monitoring sites, such as mining areas and industrial production sites, Kelluu’s airships can be used to safeguard biodiversity by monitoring large forest areas for pests, enabling quick action in case infected trees are detected.
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