Drone startups flying high after new EU regulation: “Innovates the field further”

Left: The team at Skyqraft with one of their drones. Right: Katla Aero’s drone in flight.

Many drone startups in Sweden are adapting to industry regulation changes that went into effect last year.

Those improvements promised to make it easier for companies to operate and expand across borders in the European Union.

The EU drone sector is expected to have more than 100,000 workers in the next 20 years, according to the European Commission.

One of those drone startups the EU regulations intend to help is Skyqraft. The company, which won The Business Award in Techarenan Challenge 2021, offers automatic drone control of power lines with its proprietary software for image analysis based on AI. The method eliminates the risk of injuries during manual inspections, and also reduces the climate footprint.

The company’s COO, Louise Gauffin, says a lot has changed in the last several months, including restructuring management and revising the business plan.

Transitioning into a pure AI (SaaS) company

“The vision has always been to become a pure software company as this is where Skyqraft’s real value lies,” Gauffin said. “Our drone operations arm has been a means to an end as we have wanted to ensure high quality data capture for our clients.”

Gauffin says the commercial drone landscape has matured and evolved enough since the company’s founding in 2019. Now, they can reliably outsource the drone operations to their trusted partners.

Skyqraft will focus on providing the software to visualize and analyze images, and convert them into powerful business data and metrics for clients.

Skyqraft’s modern computer vision frameworks to analyze images taken from the air. Photo: Skyqraft.

The new EU common regulatory framework will play a significant role in the evolution of companies like Skyqraft.

“The new regulations will contribute to an increased general acceptance of commercial drones, the sustainability and safety benefits, the applications and user cases, and hopefully incentivize further innovation in the field,” Gauffin said.

Those changes will also help as Skyqraft plans to expand beyond their main foothold in the Nordics.

“We are now actively expanding into the rest of Europe and North America,” Gauffin said. “We are hoping to add a few more professional and innovative commercial drone partners to our partnership portfolio.”

Katla Aero and the next generation of drones

Other drone startups are also adapting to the new changes. The new EU regulations should also change the way companies build drones. Katla Aero is a Swedish electric drone startup that manufactures an EV-VTOL. It can take off like a helicopter, and then fly like an airplane.

Co-founder Gustav Borgefalk said they’re currently in the flight testing stage. The drones should be available for the market in the next few years.

Katla offers two models, a drone and an aircraft. Photo: Katla Aero.

In the short-term, their drone will be capable of carrying 10 kilos for sensor and cargo missions. Their long-term mission is to scale up the design, so the drone can carry passengers.

“So our ultimate goal is eco-transportation, but we see the drone as a step on the way there,” Borgefalk said.

“When you’re launching a startup in the aviation industry, there’s so much in the development and business model that is depending on rules and regulations,” Borgefalk said. “So there’s strict guidelines on the design and construction side.”

He said that includes what features need to be in place to be able to operate in different airspaces. Borgefalk said if they demonstrate their product in Sweden, it will be much easier to do cross-border missions.

He suspects it will help push the use of drones to be even more mainstream, especially within the next decade.

“We’re going to see way more drones, and different types of drones solving problems in society,” Borgefalk said. “It’s going to impact all industries that depend on some kind of transportation.”


See Skyqraft’s pitch in the final of last year‘s Techarenan Challenge 2021.

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