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Riding the Wave of Drone Technology: An Interview with Nordic Unmanned’s Grethe Skundberg

Grethe Skundberg has played many roles throughout her illustrious career, from broadcast journalism, to PR, to sitting on different boards of directors, to her current mission at Nordic Unmanned as the Director of Innovation and Strategic Sales.

For the uninitiated, Nordic Unmanned is spearheading drone flight in Norway by bringing the latest unmanned systems and sensor technology to the Nordic shores.

Norway is perhaps one of the most forward-looking countries in Europe to embrace the technology.

It is one of the few countries in Europe that permits flights performed beyond the pilot’s line of sight, or BVLOS (Beyond Visible Line of Sight). This opens up a host of possibilities for both commercial use and government operations — including inspections, emergency preparedness, and marine use.

 

The Rise of Drones in Norway

Image credit: e24.no

Nordic Unmanned already has several agreements with governmental agencies for the usage of their drone technology, and the private sector is starting to recognize the scale of opportunity drone technology brings.

In time, Nordic Unmanned is predicting a savings of 40 billion USD annually through the use of drone technology. Drones will replace manned helicopters and climbers to make things safer and more cost-efficient.

To understand the rapidly evolving technology and how to lead in times of change, we got in touch with Skundberg for a chat.

 

Staying Ahead of the Next Industrial Revolution

Image source: The University of Sydney

The development of the steam engine drove the first industrial revolution, while electricity and mass production brought about the second. The third, we all know very well was driven by computerisation. And now the fourth is upon us — with disruptive technologies such as the Internet of Things, robotics, and artificial intelligence changing the way we live and work.

Being at the front lines of a new technology that is advancing at an exponentially increasing pace means that Skundberg and her fellow team mates at Nordic Unmanned has to be prescient and always ready to pounce.

“We need to be at the front end of the technology, understand the speed and complexity and constantly figure out which way we need to move to stay in front,” said Skundberg.

But how does she do it?

Be Open-Minded and Customer-Focused

“You always have to be open to new initiatives, new ideas, and be used to changes. When you are working in innovation, new initiatives and change is a big part of that,”

Skundberg believes that embracing change is the only way forward.

“But not change for the sake of change,” she cautioned.

“Instead, look at what your customer needs. Too many have brilliant ideas but did not test the market. They end up failing because they became too in love with their own technology and ideas without first testing or getting feedback from the market,”

She explained how Nordic Unmanned came about not because of a whim, but because they had observed that the technology had advanced to a point where it can be widely adopted. The fact that many countries were already embracing the technology was a solid sign that it would eventually make its way to Northern Europe.

“You need to be open-minded, discovery-driven, you need to be options-orientated. See which options could actually lead to something before you spend too much money.”

Never Stop Learning or Questioning

Skundberg spends most of her free time with her nose in a book or article about her industry and innovation in general. She surrounds herself with mentors and people “who knows more than yourself” to constantly grow as an innovator.

In fact, her first brush with the world of innovation was through co-founder of Engage // Innovate and X2 Inc Christian Rangen, during an innovation bootcamp for one of her previous companies.

“Christian made me understand that we were losing ground and needed to change. That we needed to try to see into the future. We were looking only at the core business when we needed to look beyond that at new initiatives.”

The bootcamp led to the formation of the company Nordic Smart Buildings, led by Skundberg and handed over as she moved onto Nordic Unmanned.

It was the catalyst that helped her see that there were more possibilities than there were obstacles. She realized that she needed to be well-read, and in-the-know in order to stay ahead.

“The fourth revolution is moving very fast. You need to stay on top of what’s happening in order to understand the shifts and be a part of it,”

And despite being the pioneers of bringing the drone technology to the Norwegian people, Skundberg and the team at Nordic Unmanned are constantly questioning themselves on when they will be disrupted.

“There will be a disruption. The point is to be part of that disruption. To see it coming, you have to constantly ask yourself questions like ‘can we do this better?’, ‘will there be a disruption to our business?’.”

Collaborate or Perish

 

One of the running themes during our talk was Skundberg’s passion about the magic of collaboration. She saw the many possibilities and opportunities that came with working together, and explained how the way to the future is through collaboration.

In the Rogaland region of Norway, competence and money is abundant. The problem is that companies are used to working solo and see each other as competitors instead of being a part of an ecosystem.

“There are so many possibilities for many companies if we exist as part of an ecosystem — and not only for Nordic Unmanned — we’ve got the competence, the enthusiasm, and the money in the region. It is entirely possible for Norway to be the leader of many programs and trends,” Skundberg enthused.

We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of drone technology, and its place in the fourth revolution. Will you be along for the ride?

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