Port of Antwerp is deploying for the first time an autonomous drone that will be testing various use cases in the field of inspection and control, in order to maintain safety in the complex port environment, which covers more than 120 km².
The first test will take place this week, as the Belgian port will deploy an autonomous drone developed in collaboration with the company DroneMatrix.
The drone departs from a fixed operating base near Kieldrecht Lock and follows a fixed route in the port. In addition, the drone can also fly on demand, for example in emergencies where an overview of the situation is critical.
The drone operates completely independently and charges itself through an intelligent docking station that is centrally managed from a web platform. The initial tests result from its ‘Port of the Future’ platform, aiming to roll out new innovations in the port environment.
The drone will test out various use cases, such as infrastructure inspection, surveillance and monitoring, incident management, berth management and oil spill or drift waste detection. The objective is to test the various applications in a realistic and complex environment (Seveso companies, wind turbines, high voltage, etc.) so that they can support the Harbour Safety & Security department in the future.
Several tests with other autonomous systems will follow over the course of 2021, in preparation of an operational network of autonomous drones ready to be deployed in 2022.
In the context of Port of Antwerp’s participation in the SAFIR project, extensive tests have been carried out previously to investigate the feasibility of manned and unmanned drones at the port. At the end of last year, Port of Antwerp joined forces with EMSA on a project involving a pilot-controlled drone.
Drones are a lever in carrying out our core tasks as port authority, given the port’s huge surface area. Thanks to a network of drones, we can keep a closer eye on what’s happening in the port. Through our ‘Port of the Future’ innovation platform and cooperation with partners, such as DroneMatrix, we can accelerate technological innovation. Not just for drones, but also for promising evolutions in autonomous shipping, smart cameras and sensors. As such, we are working towards a safe, efficient and smart port: the port of the future,
…said Erwin Verstraelen, Chief Digital & Innovation Officer Port of Antwerp.