Port of Antwerp Tests Autonomous Drones for Security Operations

The Port of Antwerp in Belgium is testing the use of autonomous drones for inspections, surveillance, and monitoring. The drones are expected to allow the port to perform fully independent operations, improve efficiency, lower costs, and make the port safer. The project received financial support from the Belgian province of Limburg and the Flemish Government via VLAIO (the Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship). These initial tests are the result of the Port of Antwerp’s ‘Port of the Future’ platform which seeks to promote innovations in the port environment.

”Drones are a lever in carrying out our core tasks as a port authority, given the port’s huge surface area. Thanks to a network of drones, we can keep a closer eye on what’s happening in the port. Through our “Port of the Future” innovation platform and cooperation with partners, such as DroneMatrix, we can accelerate technological innovation,” said Erwin Verstraelen, chief digital & innovation officer, Port of Antwerp.

The tests will include complete infrastructure inspection, surveillance and monitoring, incident management, berth management, and oil spill or floating debris detection. The drone will depart from a fixed operating base and follow a fixed route in the port, but can also fly on demand, for example in emergencies. The drone operates completely independently and charges itself through an intelligent docking station that is centrally managed from a web platform. Several tests with other autonomous systems will follow throughout this year with an operational network of autonomous drones ready to be deployed in 2022.  

“For DroneMatrix, the ports are important focus areas, and the scope for deploying an automated drone in these areas is endless. Increased safety, extended inspection possibilities, and a strongly improved “situational awareness” that can increase the effectiveness of human interventions. Our hardware and software developments have reached maturity, so we can now really get to work. In the coming months, DroneMatrix will launch several early adopter programs where this technology will be deployed for the first time in an industrially-scalable manner,” stated Lander Vanwelkenhuyzen, general manager of DroneMatrix.