Port of Antwerp deploys drones to monitor port activity, enhance security

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The Port of Antwerp yesterday deployed the ‘D-Hive drone-in-a-box’ network – 6 autonomous drones that will take daily flights to monitor activities at the port area. It is the first time ever that such a solution, the result of a partnership between the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, DroneMatrix, SkeyDrone and Proximus, has been deployed by a port. The drones will also work towards enhancing the overall security at the Port of Antwerp.

“Given the huge surface area of the port, drones provide us with leverage when it comes to carrying out our core tasks as a port authority. This drone network will play a crucial role in the further roll-out of the port’s digital twin, a digital copy based on thousands of pieces of data from a network of cameras, sensors and drone, giving a real-time picture of what is happening at the port every second.”

Jacques Vandermeiren (CEO, Port of Antwerp-Bruges)

The Port will use the drones for a range of functions including berth management, monitoring, infrastructure inspections, oil spill and floating waste detection, and to support security partners during incidents. The 18 daily BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) drone flights will be remotely controlled from a Command and Control Centre in the heart of the port.

The 120 square kilometer area of the Port of Antwerp will now be covered by the D-Hive network, to help coordinate smooth, safe and sustainable operations in this complex environment. The drones will offer a unique perspective from the air and enable the port authorities to manage, inspect and supervise a large area, quickly and effectively.

This is the first implementation worldwide of BVLOS flights on this scale in a complex industrial environment. Unlike VLOS (Visual Line Of Sight) flights, these will take place out of the pilot’s sight. Two months ago, the partners were given the green light to launch the drone network. This operational permit was built around a new BVLOS framework (known as pre-Uspace airspace), built by Skeydrone and approved by the BCAA (Belgian Civil Aviation Authority) and EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency), as a appropriate and safe framework for BVLOS drone flights.

“We are proud that customers like the Port of Antwerp-Bruges select DroneMatrix as the drone technology expert and end-to-end partner for the implementation of this large-scale drone network within the Port of Antwerp. We are excited to prove and further commercialise the strong added value of our unmanned aerial robotics in the coming period.”

Lander Vanwelkenhuyzen (CEO, DroneMatrix)

“A seaport is probably one of the most difficult areas to fly drones. Especially when flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). SkeyDrone therefore developed the ‘BVLOS framework’ that ensured that these D-Hive drones can be deployed daily in a safe and scalable way. ​ This framework now serves as the template for the future U-space airspace, for which again the Port of Antwerp Bruges will pioneer.”

Hendrik-Jan Van Der Gucht (Managing Director, SkeyDrone)

“We are proud to be contributing to the general safety and operational efficiency in one of Belgium’s most important economic growth engines. This newly launched network of autonomous drones will help the port authority in its day-to-day activities, for example by facilitating the detection of oil spills and floating debris or by supporting the coordination of calamity and incident response operations.”

Anne-Sophie Lotgering (Enterprise Market Lead, Proximus)