A drone recently airlifted a parts consignment package to Allseas’ semi-submersible construction vessel Pioneering Spirit at the Port of Rotterdam, marking the first drone delivery to a vessel in the Netherlands
Moored at Alexiahaven in preparation for upcoming offshore activities, 382-m Pioneering Spirit took part in a pilot project set up by Dutch Drone Delta, Allseas and the Port of Rotterdam Authority. The project is intended to determine whether and how drone deliveries could increase transport efficiency in the Port of Rotterdam.
Safety of the airspace over the port area will be managed under the slogan ‘Rotterdam, the safest port to fly’, allowing parties to take optimal advantage of new technologies to make the port safer, smarter and more efficient.
With unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) development in full swing and new European regulations in place, drone technology could have a major impact on traffic and transport. Ultimately, this may even include autonomous unmanned freight and passenger transport.
To this end, the next few years will be devoted to the phased preparation of airspace and drone technology at the port. The recent delivery constitutes a major first step in this process, since it involved the delivery of an actual package following a long-distance flight by the UAV. While in this case, the delivery was still directly monitored by human observers, in the near future it will be handled entirely beyond the pilot’s physical line of sight.
“Utilising new technologies allows us to make our port smarter, more streamlined, more efficient and safer,” said port authority adviser Ingrid Römers. “The current pilot project is a prime example: it makes a significant contribution to more efficient transport in general; and in due time, it will specifically help to reduce the pressure on our road network.”
Options for drone deployment in the port area
One of the people behind the Dutch Drone Delta initiative Stephan van Vuren said “The sky’s the limit when it comes to using drones in the port area. Incident prevention and control, for instance; or water pollution; firefighting; monitoring port operations or damage.” Other applications might cover systems and bridge inspections, construction and maintenance of infrastructure, and deliveries to ships and oil rigs, to the rapid medical transport of blood and human organs. “And in the longer term,” said Mr van Vuren, “we may even be seeing heavy freight deliveries and passenger transport. This pilot project in the port of Rotterdam has allowed us to directly demonstrate the added value of drone technology in a complex environment.”
Offshore sector also presents opportunities for drone delivery
According to Allseas PR manager Jeroen Hagelstein, the offshore industry could also benefit from this new delivery option. “As a provider of technical services to the offshore industry, we are continuously pushing the existing technical boundaries,” said Mr Hagelstein. “Pioneering Spirit is the example. With this pilot, we want to test whether drones could be an effective means to quickly and efficiently deliver materials to our vessels.” Added Mr Hagelstein, “Helicopters, for example, are not always available at every location. Drone delivery can be of added value when we are in urgent need of parts which we can’t repair ourselves – for example network switches or computer chips.”
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