Nico Nijenhuis


Testing & Experimentation – The Blueprint of a Dedicated Zone

Space53, The Netherlands

Bio Data

Nico Nijenhuis (31) 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 to develop a more efficient way to cure Virginia Tobacco leaf and reduce firewood consumption. He wrote his Bachelor thesis at CERN in Geneva on a future 5T detector magnet system. During his Master, Nico developed and validated a novel theory for the aerodynamic Near Ground Effect. In 2012, Nico founded Clear Flight Solutions together with Robert Jonker. Under their leadership the company attracted several major subsidies, two investment rounds, and won various international innovation prices. The company works in multiple countries around the world, and focuses on the development and operation of their Robirds and other (bird-like) RPAS technologies for wildlife control, wildlife protection, and surveillance. In 2015 he was one of the initiators of the Dutch Space53 programme, which supports the development of unmanned systems in any and all ways possible, including the development of a network of test centers in the Netherlands. Since 2019, Nico works on the growth of the Space53 programme, and the support of companies and research institutes inside the programme. He also supports and coaches spin-offs of the University of Twente.


After many years of hard work by the entire sector, and even more years of frustration from ambitious drone researchers & entrepreneurs, a new European legislation has seen the light. Almost two years ago during the ‘Open Days 2017’ in Brussel, we organised the Space53 Missing Link congress where we discussed the missing connection between the unmanned systems technology development and the commercial application: pan-European standards on legal circumstances, ground & airspace structures, operational concepts for the testing of technology, applications, operations, ánd rules & legislation before implementation & use in the public environment. If we want EU companies, producers a service providers alike, to be competitive on a worldwide scale, we need facilities where within a reasonable set of constraints, all imaginable concepts can be tested & experimented with. Not on the basis of case-by-case exemptions, but on the basis of a structural set of licenses for the facility. This is not covered by the new EU legislation. This presentation will present the case for licensed testing zones.

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