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Port of Antwerp-Bruges launches drone network 

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Meenal Datar

Membership specialist

The Port of Antwerp-Bruges has partnered with DroneMatrix, SkeyDrone and Proximus to create a network of six autonomous drones. The D-Hive drone-in-a-box network is a world-first that makes an important contribution to the overall security of the complex port environment. The drones will perform daily flights in the Antwerp port area, Belgium, covering an area of more than 120 km².  

​ The network will act as additional eyes 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. 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 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 an appropriate and safe framework for BVLOS drone flights. 

Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Port of Antwerp-Bruges, says: ‘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 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 drones, giving a real-time picture of what is happening at the port every second. This first takes us an important step further in developing a fully digital nervous system that will help us manage our port more efficiently and make traffic even safer and smoother.’ 

Annick De Ridder, vice-mayor of the City of Antwerp and president of the board of directors of Port of Antwerp-Bruges says: ‘We are going all-out to make our port – the engine of our economy – run as safely, cleanly and smoothly as possible. Thanks to this drone network, we will have a more accurate sense of what is going on at the port as we, along with our innovative partners, work towards the achievement of a safe, efficient and smart port – the port of the future.’ 

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