University of Oulu

Edelman, H., Stenroos, J., Peña Queralta, J., Hästbacka, D., Oksanen, J., Westerlund, T. and Röning, J. (2023), "Analysis of airport design for introducing infrastructure for autonomous drones", Facilities, Vol. 41 No. 15/16, pp. 85-100.

Analysis of airport design for introducing infrastructure for autonomous drones

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Author: Edelman, Harry1,2; Stenroos, Joel1; Queralta, Jorge Peña3;
Organizations: 1Faculty of Built Environment, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
2Faculty of Engineering and Business, Turku University of Applied Sciences, Turku, Finland
3Turku Intelligent Embedded and Robotic Systems (TIERS) Lab, Faculty of Technology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
4Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
5School of Science, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland
6Biomimetics and Intelligent Systems Group (BISG), University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.7 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Emerald, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-09-20


Purpose: Connecting autonomous drones to ground operations and services is a prerequisite for the adoption of scalable and sustainable drone services in the built environment. Despite the rapid advance in the field of autonomous drones, the development of ground infrastructure has received less attention. Contemporary airport design offers potential solutions for the infrastructure serving autonomous drone services. To that end, this paper aims to construct a framework for connecting air and ground operations for autonomous drone services. Furthermore, the paper defines the minimum facilities needed to support unmanned aerial vehicles for autonomous logistics and the collection of aerial data.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper reviews the state-of-the-art in airport design literature as the basis for analysing the guidelines of manned aviation applicable to the development of ground infrastructure for autonomous drone services. Socio-technical system analysis was used for identifying the service needs of drones.

Findings: The key findings are functional modularity based on the principles of airport design applies to micro-airports and modular service functions can be connected efficiently with an autonomous ground handling system in a sustainable manner addressing the concerns on maintenance, reliability and lifecycle.

Research limitations/implications: As the study was limited to the airport design literature findings, the evolution of solutions may provide features supporting deviating approaches. The role of autonomy and cloud-based service processes are quintessentially different from the conventional airport design and are likely to impact real-life solutions as the area of future research.

Practical implications: The findings of this study provided a framework for establishing the connection between the airside and the landside for the operations of autonomous aerial services. The lack of such framework and ground infrastructure has hindered the large-scale adoption and easy-to-use solutions for sustainable logistics and aerial data collection for decision-making in the built environment.

Social implications: The evolution of future autonomous aerial services should be accessible to all users, “democratising” the use of drones. The data collected by drones should comply with the privacy-preserving use of the data. The proposed ground infrastructure can contribute to offloading, storing and handling aerial data to support drone services’ acceptability.

Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, the paper describes the first design framework for creating a design concept for a modular and autonomous micro-airport system for unmanned aviation based on the applied functions of full-size conventional airports.

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Series: Facilities
ISSN: 0263-2772
ISSN-E: 1758-7131
ISSN-L: 0263-2772
Volume: 41
Issue: 15/16
Pages: 85 - 100
DOI: 10.1108/F-11-2022-0146
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 213 Electronic, automation and communications engineering, electronics
Funding: The entire research process has received external financial support from the Academy of Finland and is funded by the European Union – Next Generation EU.
Copyright information: © Harry Edelman, Joel Stenroos, Jorge Peña Queralta, David Hästbacka, Jani Oksanen, Tomi Westerlund and Juha Röning. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and noncommercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at