The Port of Antwerp today deployed its first autonomous drone, intended to be the first of a network to support the port authority in its core tasks.
The port of Antwerp covers a territory of more than 120 square kilometres, or about ten times the size of Heathrow airport. Not only is it huge, it forms part of the country’s critical infrastructure, with the presence of strategic industries and Seveso facilities.
The drone is intended to carry out safety tasks, and eventually be joined by more of the same, covering the entire area.
The drone that came into service this week was developed by DroneMatrix, based in Hasselt, and is stationed near to Kieldrecht lock on the left bank of the river, not far from the Dutch border.
It will follow a fixed route, although it can also be flown out on demand, for example to get an overview of a critical situation in an emergency.
In the early stages the drone will be tested in a number of 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 (HSS) department in the future,” the Port Authority said in a statement.
“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.”
“Drones are a lever in carrying out our core tasks as a port authority, given the port’s huge surface area,” said Erwin Verstraelen, chief digital and innovation officer of the Port of Antwerp.
“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.”