On September 26, the SAFIR consortium held an Open Day hosted by the Port of Antwerp. A multitude of industrial and commercial drone applications were on display during live demonstrations. During the Open Day, the safety and economic viability of integrated drone traffic in a challenging environment was successfully demonstrated by the various use cases of the consortium partners.
The SAFIR consortium (Safe and Flexible Integration of Initial U-space Services in a Real Environment ) consists of 13 public and private organisations (Amazon Prime Air, Aveillant, C-Astral, DronePort, Elia, Explicit, Helicus, Port of Antwerp, Proximus, SABCA, Skeyes, Tekever and Unifly), with each organisation bringing its expertise to the table. The demonstrations proved that interoperable, harmonised and standardised U-space services can be deployed in a safe and reliable manner across Europe.
The SAFIR use cases were first successfully tested at the state-of-the-art secured test environment of DronePort in Sint-Truiden. Its large flying areas for both manned and unmanned aviation make DronePort the perfect setup for developing and testing an ecosystem where both kind of aircraft can operate alongside in a safe context. Next, the consortium showed their drone operations in a realistic urban and industrial environment including the city and port of Antwerp. The different use cases proved the ability of drones to safeguard critical areas, such as an international port or an urban environment.
Second from the left: François Bellot - Belgian Federal Minister of Transport - watching the live demonstration
Use of drones is immense addition to safety
Covering over 120 km2, the port of Antwerp is a very large area with critical infrastructure. The SAFIR project has proven that the use of drones is an immense addition to the safety as the port authorities can manage, inspect and control a large area in a swift and safe manner.
Marc Kegelaers, CEO of Unifly: “With the SAFIR project, we have implemented a multi-level authorisation process, interconnected multiple UTM systems, and have flown a variety of drone types over an operational port and a city in an area that was very close to the extended center line of an international airport.
With this, we have shown that the UTM technology is now ready to serve the drone industry and can be used effectively as a risk mitigation system to allow and monitor drone flights- even in a challenging environment.”
Alain Siebert, Chief Economist & Master Planning: “I want to congratulate all the partners for their hard work and outstanding achievements. Today you made history ! Antwerp is now well established as one of the key locations in Europe where we are advancing U-space in a real operating environment with huge digital opportunities for people and business”.
Erwin Verstraelen, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer, Antwerp Port Authority: “As a port authority, we want to be the regulator on land, on the water and in the air. Our goal is to have a network of autonomous drones for a live feed of the various port activities, a useful tool for the entire port community.
SAFIR is not the end but the beginning of the realization of this goal. Our participation in the SAFIR consortium confirms that the port is the ideal environment to test and mature innovative tech, not only for drones but also for autonomous shipping, smart camera’s and sensors. As Port of Antwerp, we welcome this EU approach in facilitating innovative technology. This approach triggers innovation to move forward towards maturity.”
Annick De Ridder - Vice Mayor for the Port of Antwerp
Annick De Ridder, Vice Mayor for the Port of Antwerp: “Innovation and digitisation are crucial if our port is to stay sustainably competitive in the long term. Port of Antwerp is therefore the driving force when devising and realising solutions for the challenges of tomorrow. Drones will become indispensable in the near future, also in our port. Given the particular nature of our port, this has to be done in a safe manner.
The SAFIR project has made clear what will be needed in terms of regulation and requirements at all levels to facilitate drone flights in and around the port in a safe and secure way.”