A drone has been used to conduct a delivery of a parts consignment to Pioneering Spirit, a construction vessel owned by offshore contractor Allseas Group and the largest vessel by weight in the world. The flight was conducted at the port of Rotterdam and marks the first time that a drone delivery has been made to a vessel in the Netherlands.
The flight was part of a pilot project being conducted by UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) delivery technology initiative Dutch Drone Delta in conjunction with Allseas and the Port of Rotterdam Authority. The project aims to determine whether and how drone deliveries could increase transport efficiency in the port of Rotterdam. The airspace over the port area will be safely managed, allowing businesses to take optimal advantage of new technologies to make the port safer, smarter and more efficient.
The continuous evolution of the UAV industry is having a major impact on traffic and transport, with new European regulations clearing the way for new applications. This may eventually include autonomous unmanned freight and passenger transport, and entities such as Dutch Drone Delta are working on phased preparation of airspace and drone technology. The delivery to Pioneering Spirit 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 this delivery was still directly monitored by human observers, in the near future operations are likely to operate beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).
Port Authority adviser Ingrid Römers commented: “Utilising new technologies allows us to make our port smarter, more streamlined, more efficient and safer. 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. We intend to safely structure our airspace under the slogan ‘Rotterdam, the safest port to fly’. The results of this pilot project can also serve as input for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management when it drafts the required legislation and regulations. This will enable Rotterdam’s port business community to take optimal advantage of these new developments.”
Stephan van Vuren at Dutch Drone Delta initiative 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 examples include everything from 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, 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.”
Jeroen Hagelstein, Allseas PR manager, stated: “As a provider of technical services to the offshore industry, we are continuously pushing the existing technical boundaries. 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. Helicopter, for example, are not always available on 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.”