March 30th, 2023: 9.45 a.m., I arrive at Hangar 9 at Dubendorf Airport. My head is filled with all the details that should guide me through our first LINA event. In order to enter the massive sliding door, it has to be opened with great force. I see a huge hall in front of me where numerous helpers are finalizing the preparations to make our first LINA event a success.
In a way, it feels that the force expended to open the hangar door represents the weighty challenge of putting LINA's goals into practice.
We didn’t have to start from scratch though. We have been able to build LINA on an existing, solid foundation in a safe country with a strong economy: A well-established drone ecosystem, a hub for internationally renowned research and development in the field of autonomous systems in Canton of Zurich and one of the busiest airspaces above Dubendorf Airport already exist. Access to great talents at our globally recognized Swiss universities and start-ups has come together to form a research community. Additionally, Skyguide, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), and other regulatory authorities are used to working together, which is essential for a well-working concept of operation at Dubendorf Airport.
To implement LINA's goals, it is now necessary to open the massive sliding door to LINA with great force: The cooperation with Skyguide has already been intensified and supplemented step-by-step with additional support from FOCA and the airport administrator Swiss Air Force and many other stakeholders. Only in this community, one of the most complex airspaces in Europe can be reorganized in such a way that it remains safe, controllable, and efficiently manageable for everyone involved. Over the next two years, we will work intensively on setting up multiple, well-connected, and sophisticated drone testing facilities at one location. Here, our users will be facilitated to test their innovations through all stages of development and in the long run get them certified and brought to the market.
At the same time, the existing ecosystem will be expanded with various offers, such as the Laboratory for Sustainable Robotics at Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA), and transferred to an international level. We target to become part of a European network of well-coordinated test infrastructures, which will be tailored to the needs of users. We also will bring start-ups, universities, and industries together, and foster interdisciplinary projects in collaboration with funding agencies. And finally, we will create public awareness by informing about autonomous systems, demonstrating use cases, and making drones and other robots come alive for a broad public.
Back in Hangar 9, for the upcoming hours, the first LINA event takes place with more than 100 participants, representing academia, start-ups, industry, and representatives from the government. We have a day packed with presentations, live demos, panel discussions, and challenging questions involving all the participants.
My conclusion after I have analyzed participants’ feedback to our event: We are on the right track. There are high expectations for LINA as a whole. But there are also many highly motivated stakeholders who support the LINA team and its goals.
We will organize more such events and respond even more to the needs of the participants. More use cases will be shown, and networking will be promoted.
5.30 p.m., the hard-working helpers have already removed everything in the hangar. I am relieved, the event feels like having been a success. I am closing the massive door of Hangar 9, but only until a next test flight of one of the users. Our first event has facilitated the implementation of LINA’s goals. We will keep you updated. Go for LINA!