Six autonomous drones are to monitor the activities in the port of Antwerp. Photo: Port of Antwerp-Bruges.

The Port of Antwerp is ready to deploy six autonomous drones to help the Port Authority manage, inspect and monitor the large port area quickly and efficiently, helping to increase both security and efficient handling.

The Port of Antwerp will use drones for a number of functions, including managing ship calls, surveillance, infrastructure inspections, checking for oil spills, detecting liquid waste, and supporting the authorities in the event of an accident.

The six drones will be sent out on 18 daily flights, where they are out of sight of the "pilots", and according to the port, this type of flight in a complex industrial environment is a world first.

"Given the huge surface area of ​​the port, drones give us leverage when it comes to carrying out our core tasks as a port authority," says Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges and continues: "Given the huge area of ​​the port, drones give us a lever when it comes to carrying out our core tasks as a port authority.”

The idea of ​​launching a network of drones to monitor the activities got the port back in 2019. Since then, the port has tested a number of solutions before it is now ready to implement after obtaining the necessary approvals, including from the civil aviation authority in Belgium and the EU's Aviation Safety Agency.

The drone network will also play a decisive role in the rollout of the port's so-called "digital twin", which is a digital copy of the port based on thousands of data from a network of cameras, sensors, and drones, which must provide a real-time image of, what happens at the port every second.

"This first takes us an important step forward in the development of a fully digital nervous system that will help us manage our port more efficiently and make traffic even safer and smoother," says the director.