SGS, BASF, ADLC start BVLOS autonomous petrochemical analysis drone flights at Antwerp port

SGS – a major testing, inspection and certification organisation – has launch its drone transport service in the Port of Antwerp in what the company says is an international first: the transport of petrochemical analysis samples by autonomous drones.

SGS now offers drone transport to transport petrochemical analysis samples quickly and safely to the laboratory. The company has partnered with ADLC, a drone logistics company, in this operation. BASF Antwerpen NV facilitated this example of sustainable innovation.

“Every year, SGS analyses approximately 6,000 (petro)chemical analysis samples for BASF Antwerp and more than 60,000 samples for other companies in the port of Antwerp,” said a (translated) joint press release from SGS, ADLC and BASF. “Drone operator ADLC and BASF Antwerp have collaborated in the SAMPLIFLY project to safely and efficiently transport these samples with a beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) computer-controlled autonomous drone. The drone is designed to fly greater distances (up to 50 km) with a payload of 15 kg. Thanks to this drone logistics, SGS can reduce the transport time of the analysis samples by up to six times. This not only increases the efficiency of the operations of both BASF Antwerp and SGS, but also reduces the environmental impact of both parties. Traditionally, the transport of analysis samples is carried out by road. The use of drones offers a sustainable solution by reducing CO2 emissions by up to 80%.

“ADLC – in collaboration with SGS – has created a software platform for requesting the transport, planning the flight, starting the drone remotely and the real-time follow-up of the flown trajectory. As soon as a flight is requested by an SGS operator via the online order portal, the drone automatically navigates from take-off location to destination using on-board computers and navigation systems. The pilot monitors the flight remotely via a control system, so that immediate action can be taken and safety is guaranteed…. The implementation of SAMPLIFLY is a first for the European port industry, partly because of the very strict safety requirements that the drone transport of petrochemical samples must meet. Logistics drone flights for petrochemical products in an industrial environment are subject to the strictest (inter)national aviation regulations. ADLC is the first company in Europe to be approved for the transport of such analytical samples by drone, and the first company worldwide to do so within a port in a non-segregated controlled airspace.

The project was made possible thanks to the financial support of partners: SGS, the City of Antwerp, the European Space Agency, as well as the logistical support and assistance of BASF Antwerp, Port of Antwerp-Bruges, EuroUSC, Skeydrone, Orange and Unifly. “

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