Kristo Reinsalu confirms that the biggest challenges in aviation worldwide today are achieving carbon neutrality, the secure integration of unmanned aerial vehicles into airspace as well as the digital changes that support these developments. He believes that the green turn can be useful for us, because Estonia as a modern and digitally advanced country allows us to test all drone services and move high-emission overland transportation into the air. “Additionally, it would be possible to link every spot in Estonia as well as close neighbouring countries with carbon neutral aircrafts in a 500 km radius,” he explained, referring to Estonia’s small size as an advantage. Reinsalu added that compared to Estonia, no other country could realistically accomplish this as fast.
Tens of billions at stake
Reinsalu is certain that Estonia would be capable of creating an export-oriented drone services industry worth 2 billion euros by 2030. “The global hydrogen aircraft market will be around 170 billion euros by 2040. How much of that market we can take, is dependant only on our drive and ambition,” Reinsalu noted. To achieve this, the ZeroEST carbon neutrality development centre was created to develop a new ambitious image of Estonian aviation.
The main attractions Estonia offers are a well-functioning and effective business environment as well as a qualified workforce. Raido Lember, Business Development Manager at Invest Estonia, said that increasing the number of talented people in the Estonian Aviation Academy is already underway, as is the closer collaboration between universities and technical institutes regarding technological development. A national growth strategy in the aviation sector is nearing completion, as is a collaborative ecosystem related to the drone economy, zero-emissions aviation and many other successful developments. “Estonia is increasingly contributing a great deal of innovation to the global aviation sector,” Lember said. “It is likely we will become one of the regional hubs for air cargo as well as a one-of-a-kind development centre for drones and other small aircraft.”
Examples that inspire confidence
The experts who speak about a brighter future are backed up by a number of success stories. Lember listed MAC Aero Interiors as an example, a company that manufactures for Airbus. “MAC Aero Interiors is a British company that moved its operations fully to Estonia last year,” said Lember noting that this shows how highly people think about Estonia’s current business environment. “Estonia hosts several first-step developers and manufacturers that are based on foreign capital, companies such as Èolane, Incap, Scanfil and others – we have a long-standing engineering and manufacturing tradition and also the largest concentration of the electronics industry in Europe.”
He also listed ABB as an example, who are engaged in joint research development with Ericsson Estonia to develop the next iteration of smart 5G solutions. “Futuristic innovation possibilities may be found in many different fields, starting from the development of new business models and ending with the invention of brand new technologies. Starting with companies such as Zubax Robotics, which has designed effective electric propulsion systems for the aerospace sector, to LightCode Photonics, which has successfully developed 3D LIDAR Cameras,” Lember said.
Reinsalu is also certain about Estonia’s potential for success. He brings the Orkney archipelago as an example, a place in the most northern part of Scotland with a slightly higher population than Saaremaa, the largest island in Estonia. “Kirkwall Airport is located there, and in the upcoming years, it will become one of the central hubs of future aviation – Estonia is also capable of offering so much more,” the expert is certain.
Reinsalu believes that Estonia is currently ready for success stories. For example, the aeronautical software solutions provider Axinom has developed software which is used by more than 40 airlines on more than 3000 aircrafts.
Reinsalu provides another well-known example of success, the company Magnetic MRO led by Risto Mäeots, which manufactures lavatory components, cradles, storage devices and literature stands for a huge airline. Lember added that Magnetic MRO is more than just a little subcontractor, Magnetic also houses a strong design team that uses the latest materials and computing powers to accelerate the innovation process in the conservative aircraft cabin market.
In addition to success stories, Estonian aviation companies are also awarded international recognition. Electronic systems manufacturer Ionix Systems that operates in Western Estonia won the Rolls Royce Annual Strategic Supplier Award and Otto Pukk, local CEO of Incap Electronics, was appointed to be the president of the group last year.
SkySelect is an Estonian aviation startup company which has attracted money from Silicon Valley – they assist people with finding the best deals for aircraft components and spare parts and by doing so, they help reduce other companies’ workloads by 30-50%.
To develop the green turn in aviation, investments are required. ZeroEST development centre that focuses on drones as well as electric and hydrogen aviation, would be an attractive investment for some leading aircraft manufacturers, believes Reinsalu. As the Estonian Aviation Cluster is working with its partners to establish a state-of-the-art aviation software technology centre of excellence that would focus on new software solutions in aircrafts, this could also become an attractive area to invest in.
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