Belgian partnership plans long distance drone operations over the North Sea

Belgian air navigation service provider Skeyes and POM West-Vlaanderen have embarked on a strategic and operational partnership to pave the way for long-distance drone flights Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) in the airspace above the North Sea and between the regional airports of Ostend-Bruges Airport and International Luchthaven Kortrijk-Wevelgem. The collaboration, planned for an initial period of two years, is based on optimizing airspace and implementing an operational framework developed by Skeyes. The two parties signed a partnership agreement on 1 November 2023.

New drone applications
Flights with Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) over longer distances have considerable potential for many applications, including inspection of offshore wind farms, surveillance of maritime emissions and many others. However, obtaining licences for such activities today remains extremely difficult for drone operators due to several regulatory restrictions.

With this in mind, the two parties have decided to join forces to tackle this challenge. By optimising airspace with clear rules for manned and unmanned aviation, they aim to pave the way for new drone applications. This collaboration is a response to the growing demand for the use of drones over longer distances, from both authorities and industrial players.

Operational framework
The solution is based on the expertise of skeyes, which has developed an operational framework and a set of tools to integrate BVLOS drones safely and efficiently. This collaboration will create a favourable environment for the expansion of drone operations over the North Sea and between the Ostend and Courtrai-Wevelgem regions.

skeyes and POM believe this initiative will bring significant benefits to industries interested in long-distance drone flights. Together, they will actively work to define the standards, procedures and regulations needed to carry out these activities.

Over the next two years, this cooperation should pave the way for a significant expansion of BVLOS UAS operations over the North Sea and the region between Ostend and Courtrai-Wevelgem, providing a promising future for the drone sector in Belgium.

The partnership agreement was signed on behalf of the Provincial Development Corporation POM by Mr Jean De Bethune, Chairman and Mr Lieven Tack , Managing Director. Mr Johan Decuyper, CEO signed the document for skeyes.

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