Nico Nijenhuis (29) studied Applied Physics and Engineering Fluid Dynamics at the University of Twente. During his studies he spent time in Malawi, Africa with local tobacco farmers, wrote his Bachelor thesis at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, and did an internship at the Dutch Aerospace Laboratory NLR during his Master, where he developed and validated a novel theory for the aerodynamic Near Ground Effect. Soon after being handed an early prototype of a Robird by his professor, Nico founded Clear Flight Solutions together with Robert Jonker. The company now has 13 employees and completely focuses on the development and operation of their Robirds and other (bird-like) Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (drones) technologies for wildlife control and wildlife protection.
Test ranges are arguably the most important facilities for the development of a mature drone industry. Experimental systems in all their shapes and sizes need to be tested before being integrated into society. Not only does this encompass “simple” flight testing, but also application testing, and eventually real-life simulations to learn how the system behaves when operated in real life situations. Next to the developer/manufacturer/enduser being able to test and train with their technologies, authorities get to look along with what the industry is developing from a very early stage onwards. The Dutch Drone Platform is a cooperation between the five (potential) test ranges in the Netherlands (Woensdrecht (Aviolanda), Valkenburg (RoboValley), Den Helder, Marknesse (NLR), and Twente (Space53)) and the branche organisation DARPAS. Together they cover a broad range of facilities and possibilities for testing drones, from simple flight tests to highly complex real-life scenario’s. The DDP has initiated a National Fieldlab Drones. Within the Fieldlab the DDP and Dutch government are working together on being able to facilitate fully experimental testing in the Netherlands, on innovation- and technology development roadmaps for the Netherlands, and on a national knowledge and experience center for drones. By doing so, the industry and government are working in a joint approach to facilitate, develop and strengthen the drone industry in the Netherlands.