Katla Aero to develop drones for reindeer husbandry

Katla Aero will develop drones for reindeer husbandry, in collaboration with Sámi drone pioneers and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The Sámi are the indigenous people of northernmost part of Europe with reindeer husbandry as a longstanding tradition, as well as livelihood. In the 1970s introduction of snowmobiles changed conditions for reindeer herders, which paved the way for a new way of reindeer herding practices. Today, another technical revolution is about to enter the scene.

When costs of drone technology came down, some reindeer herders became early users of drones in their reindeer herding, realizing the potential in using drones to monitor and herd their reindeer, a task which is usually done using snowmobiles, ATV’s and helicopters. The hope of drone technology is to save costs and make reindeer herding more efficient while retaining a high level of animal welfare. The operating costs of helicopters are 5-8000 SEK ($600-900 USD) per hour and while operating costs of drones are much lower. In this project Sámi reindeer herders from the reindeer herding communities of Könkämä, Sirges, Gran and Vilhelmina south as well as researchers from Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) will contribute to the development of a new generation of drones for reindeer husbandry.

In our ongoing attempt to maintain our traditional form of reindeer husbandry on grazing lands impacted by many land users, I see drones as a promising tool. Already today, store-bought drones give us a better overview of our herds and help us move herds with minimal impact on the reindeer. We see great needs to develop custom-made drones that fit our specific needs says Mikael Kuhmunen head of Sirges reindeer herding community.

An important aspect of the project is to understand how drones impact the health and welfare of reindeer. To help evaluate the usefulness of drones for reindeer husbandry, researchers from SLU, will contribute with applied knowledge from Animal Science, Animal and Landscape ecology as pertaining to reindeer husbandry, to the service design process.

 I see great potential in the use of drones for studies of reindeer habitat use as well as animal behavior and welfare. Also, images and movies from drones can probably improve mapping and monitoring of grazing resources says Per Sandström at SLU in Umeå.

Katla Aero develops and manufactures manned and unmanned electric vertical take-off and landing drones and aircraft. The unmanned Katla drone has a total weight of 25 kg and can carry up to 10 kg of cargo or sensors. Katla Aero will produce and adapt the Katla drone platforms within the framework of the project, which will run to 2021.

Developing aircraft for one of the harshest environments on earth is a great opportunity for Katla to demonstrate our versatile and robust vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) platform. We look much forward to this exciting collaboration, says Gustav Borgefalk at Katla Aero.

The project is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).