Antwerp port adopts BVLOS operations following U-space research

Mar. 26, 2021

The Port of Antwerp has become one of the first seaports to initiate unmanned air traffic management (UTM) in a busy and complex port environment and is the first non-aviation authority to become a fully-fledged geozone manager, according to a news release. As geozone manager, the port will be responsible for managing ground risk related to above-the-ground activity, with respects to operational and working drones, overall safety and seamless integration of processes required; all of which are intended to ramp up productivity and efficiency of port operations.

Under new European legislation, ports now have the authority to coordinate and manage drones in their airspace, especially with regards to ground risks posed.

According to the press statement: “With the help of drones, ports can increase safety, enforce compliance, and optimise operational efficiency, all with minimal interference to existing infrastructure and process. Port of Antwerp has picked up on this, and as drone traffic in their airspace continues to increase, there is a need to control their airspace and differentiate friend from foe.

“Port of Antwerp has identified specific requirements for its role as a geozone manager, such as the ability to simultaneously handle a multiple workflow, multi-layered authorisation process and robust real-time surveillance and detection capabilities. Given the vast area of responsibility within this busy seaport, it is the first time that a geozone management system of this scale and complexity will be created. “As such, Unifly has been appointed as technology partner to develop the Port’s Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) platform.

Leon van de Pas, CEO of Unifly said: “After the successful [SESAR U-space] SAFIR project, Port of Antwerp has demonstrated to be a global leader in innovation, deploying now the first UTM system for seaports in the world. Thanks to our close partnership with Port of Antwerp, we managed to develop this new value proposition UTM Seaports in record time.”

Erwin Verstraelen, Chief Digital Information & Innovation Officer, Port of Antwerp: “Ultimately, we are taking the necessary steps towards building a seaport that will be ready for a time when drones will play a bigger role in port operations. We are creating a drone ecosystem where port stakeholders can easily deploy drones in their day-to-day activities.”

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