Port of Rotterdam launches U-space prototype project, opens Airspace Center to manage lower airspace

Coinciding with coming into force of EASA regulations concerning U-space, the Port of Rotterdam Authority is setting up the airspace for drone use with the opening of Airspace Center together with Uncrewed Traffic Management (UTM) provider Airwayz. The Airport Center is located on 14th floor of the Port of Rotterdam Authority office.

The Center will manage, in a test setup, the low airspace (VLL – Very Low Level airspace) for drones above the Europoort and Maasvlakte area, both for manned and unmanned flights for the next two years using Airwayz UTM system.

In low airspace, air traffic control will be a completely digital process. This will now be tested together with software partner Airwayz. The Port of Rotterdam Authority is among the first in Europe to set up its own airspace and rules on this scale, in order to steer drone traffic in the right direction. The starting point is that good airspace management enables commercial drone services and makes port processes even safer and more efficient, says the Port of Rotterdam.

The Center will be manned by Airspace Managers, the air traffic controllers for drones. From the Airspace Center they have a view of who is in the air. The Airspace Managers are employees of the Port Authority. They will be active in this role one day a week and contribute ideas to the question of whether airspace management can indeed be a task for the Port Authority from a safety point of view, but also from the point of view of digitization and the safe use of data.

The prototype program will run until October 2024. During this period, knowledge will be gained about what is needed to keep drone airspace safe, to determine the impact of drone air traffic control on the organization and to get an idea of ​​the future role of the Port Authority in the air layer. All this to ensure the safety of the airspace in the longer term. The prototype U-Space Airspace Rotterdam also provides a model for further rollout throughout the Netherlands, for example above cities.

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