Port of Antwerp moves forward with drone project

The Antwerp Port Authority is proceeding with plans to create a network of automated drones to support port operations, having agreed a deal with the 6th NeTWorK consortium, a collaboration between DroneMatrix, Proximus and SkeyDrone, for the roll-out.

The ‘D-Hive’ project framework aims to provide the Port Authority with the ability to draw up flight plans and routes remotely, set the purpose and desired output (photos, measurements, live stream, etc.) of the flight, and manage authorisation requests.

The drones will be capable of being deployed without manual intervention to support a number of processes, including, for example, the detection of oil slicks and floating debris, infrastructure inspections, safety coordination, vessel traffic management, incident response, site monitoring, environmental inspections and asset management.

“The D-Hive innovative drone project makes Port of Antwerp the first port authority in the world to offer operational drone capacity on such a big scale,” said Annick De Ridder, Antwerp Alderman responsible for the port.

“A network of automatic drones that carry out flights at strategic places in the port offers considerable added value, in terms of security as well as efficiency. This demonstrates that we are giving concrete shape today to the smart port of tomorrow.”

The 6th NeTWorK consortium was founded at the end of 2020 by hardware and software developer DroneMatrix, telecom operator Proximus and the drone air traffic service provider SkeyDrone.

Together, the three partners implement drone solutions from a service model in which drones can perform missions ‘as a service’. All technical aspects of the project and permit applications are handled by the consortium as the service provider, with the data and information made available to the user in real time.

DroneMatrix, which is acting as the main contractor, will supply both hardware and software for the drones and is responsible for the operation of the flights. SkeyDrone will provide continuous monitoring of the operational ground and air risks, integrating various static and dynamic data sources (such as position data from air traffic and ships) to determine the safest and most efficient flight routes.

Proximus, for its part, will provide both cloud-based services for hosting the platform and its specific expertise in the field of IoT and analytics. The company is already providing 5G services in the Port of Antwerp, which will be used by the drones for operations.

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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