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Port of Antwerp trials fixed-wing drones

Port of Antwerp trials fixed-wing drones
The port aims to implement a drone network by 2022

The Port of Antwerp has conducted field trials of a fixed-wing drone fitted with a camera, evaluating the technology’s potential to enhance safety and security by providing the port authority with detailed images of developing incidents in real-time.

In partnership with aerospace company Sabca, the trial tested out four realistic emergency situations: a container fire, the rescue of a person in distress on top of a windmill, the rescue of a drowning person and the rescue of a man overboard.

The port aims to put in place an operational network of drones by 2022 in order to provide a ‘live feed’ of the various port activities.

Bob Spanoghe from the Port of Antwerp stated: “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.

“As a tool, this will enhance the work carried out by the entire port community. That will enable us to have a more accurate sense of what is going on within the port and as we work towards the achievement of a safe, efficient and smart port – the port of the future.”

Thanks to a drone’s unique view it can make a contribution to the overall safety within the port, which covers more than 120 sq km and forms part of Belgium’s critical infrastructure.

A fixed-wing drone can remain airborne for more than eight hours, taking pictures with a very powerful camera (30x zoom) from a height of 280 m.

The types of tasks that can be performed include inspecting infrastructure, surveillance and monitoring, incident management, berth management and the detection of oil spills or floating waste.

Thibauld Jongen, the CEO of Sabca, said: “Drones will be indispensable in the near future when performing high-risk tasks. By carrying out these demonstrations in collaboration with Port of Antwerp, we are able to show that we can make various operations safer and more efficient by using unmanned aircraft for inspections, transporting goods and surveillance.”

Annick De Ridder, port alderman, noted: “We are pulling out all the stops for a safe port and drones will become indispensable for this in the near future, also in our port. Innovation and digitalisation are crucial to guarantee sustainable growth in the long term.

“Port of Antwerp is therefore the driving force behind inventing and realising solutions for the challenges of tomorrow. Moreover, the port is an ideal environment to test and further develop this innovative technology.”