- Port of Rotterdam was able to celebrate a first for the Netherlands: an unmanned aerial drone delivery of parts to a merchant vessel.
- A sandwich-sized computer network switch was delivered by drone to Allseas’ Pioneering Spirit, the largest vessel by displacement in the world.
- The pilot was set up by Dutch Drone Delta and Allseas and intended to determine whether and how drone deliveries could increase transport efficiency in the port area.
- For the offshore sector, drone operations could supplement traditional means like helicopter deliveries.
Rotterdam in the Netherlands has the busiest port in Europe. And now it’s getting just a tad busier with the arrival of drone deliveries, reports Maritime Executive.
Drone delivery trial
On May 22, the Port of Rotterdam launched a drone delivery trial program. The first flight saw a DJI Matrice 210 bring a parts consignment to Allseas’ Pioneering Spirit, the biggest vessel in the world.
The trial program is jointly run by Allseas, the Port of Rotterdam, and the Dutch Drone Delta and is expected to run for several years.
Initially, all flights have to be within line of sight of the operator, which limits how far a delivery can go. But the plan is to eventually transition to beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), allowing the drones to serve a much large area.
Ports are a natural place for early drone delivery programs, as there’s less risk in flying over water than over built-up urban areas on land.
“Utilizing new technologies allows us to make our port smarter, more streamlined, more efficient and safer,” said Ingrid Römers, an adviser to the port authority.
She added, “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.”
Drones could help multitask
Stephan van Vuren, a member of the Dutch Drone Delta initiative, said that drone services in the port area could help with multiple tasks, including incident prevention and control, firefighting, routine monitoring, infrastructure inspections, and deliveries to ships and oil rigs.
“And in the longer term, we may even be seeing heavy freight deliveries and passenger transport,” says van Vuren.
For the offshore sector, drone operations could supplement traditional means like helicopter deliveries. “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,” said Allseas spokesperson Jeroen Hagelstein.
A streamlined alternative
Cargo ships can spend some time anchored offshore at large ports, and during that time they may need to have supplies delivered. The current method relies on small boats or helicopters to go out to the ship.
But if the items required weigh just a few pounds, a drone could be a faster and more efficient way to get the supplies to the ship.
This Rotterdam trail comes just a few weeks after the port of Singapore launched its own drone delivery program.
- A company called F-Drones made its first shore-to-ship delivery at the end of April. F-Drones has already won approval for BVLOS deliveries in Singapore, allowing it to serve a much wider area.
- F-Drones also shows how big drone delivery can get. While it’s currently using commercial drones that carry just a few pounds, the company is working on its own drone that can lug up to 100 kilograms (220 pounds) over long distances.
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Source: Maritime Executive