Port of Antwerp trials drones to enhance security

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The Port of Antwerp has partnered with Aerospace company Sabca to conduct field trials of a fixed-wing drone fitted with cameras to assess the technology’s potential in providing real-time on-site security imaging.

These unmanned aircrafts are able to remain airborne for more than eight hours and can take images using a powerful camera from a height of 280m. Utilising these features, the drones are able to perform key tasks around the port such as inspecting infrastructure, surveillance and monitoring, incident management, berth management and the detection of oil spills or floating waste.

Over the course of the trial, the images recorded by the drone covered four realistic emergency situations. These included 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.

“Drones will be indispensable in the near future when performing high-risk tasks,” said Thibauld Jongen, CEO of Sabca.

“By carrying out these demonstrations in collaboration with the 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.

“By undertaking this joint exercise, the Port of Antwerp is once again showing itself to be a prominent player that always seeks to play a pioneering role. We are therefore also grateful that the Port of Antwerp decided to work with Sabca, a company also based in Belgium, in order to conduct these trials.”

Bob Spanoghe, Innovation Platform Manager at the Port of Antwerp, added, “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. Our goal is to put in place an operational network of drones by 2022 in order to provide a ‘live feed’ of the various port activities. 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 a safe, efficient, and smart port – the port of the future.

“This is the first time that trials using this fixed-wing drone have been undertaken in a port environment and they have helped us progress yet another step further, including in the collaboration we have achieved with our safety partners.”

According to a statement from the Port of Antwerp, the use of drones will play an important role in the port of the future as a means of maintaining safety.

Marc Kegelaers, part of Corporate Development at Sabca-UAS also saw drones playing a key role in the future operations of ports. However, smaller or intermediate ports with fewer resources have been traditionally hesitant to invest in a comprehensive fleet of drones and so may see the appeal in the Drones-as-a-service solution.

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