World First In Antwerp Port Area: Drone Network Officially Launched

Six autonomous drones will perform daily flights in the Antwerp port area, a world first that will make an important contribution to the overall security of the complex port environment. Launched, today, the ‘D-Hive drone-in-a-box’ network is the result of a partnership between the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, DroneMatrix, SkeyDrone, and Proximus.

Six extra pairs of eyes
​The Antwerp port area is more than 120km², an area that will now be covered by the D-Hive network of six autonomous drones. They will provide extra pairs of 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.

Port of Antwerp Bruges
World first in Antwerp port area. Image Credit: 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.

World First
​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. Port of Antwerp-Bruges is working with partners DroneMatrix, SkeyDrone, and Proximus for the D-Hive network.

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 an appropriate and safe framework for BVLOS drone flights.

Drone Network
Visit of EASA and Euro control to the control room for automatic BVLOS drones. Image Credit: Port of Antwerp Bruges

Live feed of port activities
​Port of Antwerp-Bruges already had the vision of building a network of autonomous drones in 2019, because of the important role they could play in helping to create the port of the future. Several tests have taken place and there was participation in the SAFIR project to investigate the feasibility of drones at the port. As a result, the ambition of a network of autonomous drones is now a reality.

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