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Why Finnish UAS Firm Enters US Market

By Luke Geiver | January 21, 2016

Listening to the CEO of an sUAV-based utility inspection company explain what he left behind to start offices in the U.S. had writer Ann Bailey and I both wondering the same thing: Why would Sharper Shape want to invest time and money in the U.S. when the company can’t perform the same operations as it could in Finland? (Earlier this week we sat down with Tero Heinonen, CEO of Sharper Shape to learn about his story).

Bailey wrote a piece on the company here. For more information on what they do and hope to do, check it out. I’m touching on the more general topic and question mentioned above. Consider this:  in Finland, and throughout Europe, Sharper Shape has established itself as a proven service provider for utility companies looking to reduce costs and improve operations through the deployment of UAVs. The company has been covered extensively by regional and local media there. People know who they are. The company can also perform beyond visual line of sight operations there and maximize their capabilities. The company is not unique in that it has proven how to perform such a task, as many other entities can fly BVLOS. But, it’s that the company can legally do so in its operating regions that beg the question, why leave a place where you can perform optimal operations on a continued, consistent basis?

To answer that, Heinonen pointed directly to the regulatory landscape in the U.S. The FAA is behind other countries on UAS regulation, he said. It is also extremely cautious in its approach, he added. But, unlike Europe, when the FAA finalizes its rules for sUAVs (which Heinonen firmly believed will happen in 2016) the rules will be the same for the entire country because they are coming from the top.

In Europe, he said, similar rules allowing for the total commercial operational desires of UAS firms (BVLOS, night flights, etc.) will happen, but they will be different from country to country until several years pass and the entirety of Europe adopts the same regulations. Navigating such a regulatory framework is daunting to Heinonen, he said. Waiting for the FAA, in his case, is worth the opportunity it will provide in the future. The U.S., he believes, offers the best commercial market opportunity for a relatively new UAV firm.