Port of Antwerp selects 6th NeTWork for large scale innovative drone project

The Antwerp Port Authority has selected the 6th NeTWorK consortium, a collaboration between DroneMatrix, Proximus and SkeyDrone, for the roll-out of a large-scale and innovative drone project.

In the framework of this project, called “D-Hive – Operational drone capacity for the Port of Antwerp”, a network of drones capable of performing automated flights from strategic locations in the port, is being developed. Via a unique platform, the Port Authority can draw up flight plans and routes remotely, set the purpose and desired output (photos, measurements, live stream, etc.) of the flight, and manage authorization requests.

The drones are deployed without manual intervention in the port to support its core processes and optimize overall operational excellence. This includes, for example, the detection of oil slicks and floating debris, infrastructure inspections, safety coordination, vessel traffic management support, calamity and incident support, site monitoring, environmental inspections and asset management.

The 6th NeTWorK consortium was founded at the end of 2020 by the hardware and software developer DroneMatrix, the telecom operator Proximus and the (drone) air traffic service provider SkeyDrone. Together, the three partners implement drone solutions from a service model in which drones can perform missions ‘as a service’ for business purposes and are also working together on the development of drone networks. The complementarity between the three parties enables the creation of a range of services fully geared to the demands of the market.

DroneMatrix, which is acting as the main contractor in the project, supplies both hardware and software for the drones. The company is also responsible for the operation of the flights.

SkeyDrone, a subsidiary of skeyes and Brussels Airport Company, is providing continuous monitoring of the operational ground and air risks. Integrating various static and dynamic data sources (such as position data from air traffic and ships) it determines the safest and most efficient flight routes. The flight authorization process is automated via the data platform, through integration with the UTM platform of SkeyDrone technology partner Unifly.

“The project is being carried out solely in support of the Port Authority,” says Frederik Winters, DroneMatrix project manager. “Based on the results, we want to inspire the port community to also use the Drone-as-a-Service (DAAS) model in the future. This concept takes care of all the concerns of companies and governments that rely on drone services. The technical aspect and permit applications are handled by us as the service provider, with the data and information made available to the user in real time.”

Annick De Ridder, Antwerp Alderman responsible for the port: “The D-Hive innovative drone project makes Port of Antwerp the first port authority in the world to offer operational drone capacity on such a big scale. “A network of automatic drones that carry out flights at strategic places in the port offers considerable added value, in terms of security as well as efficiency. This demonstrates that we are giving concrete shape today to the smart port of tomorrow.”

Proximus provides a network infrastructure, delivers both cloud-based services for hosting the 6th NeTWorK platform and brings specific expertise in the field of IoT and analytics. In March 2020, Proximus activated its 5G technology in the Port of Antwerp. Since then, the network has continued to evolve, and as a result most parts of the port area now enjoy coverage on the 3.5GHz spectrum. A high-performance mobile network like this, which can handle high speeds and reduce latency to a minimum, enables the drones to function optimally and ensures efficient data transfer.

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