Antwerp deploys autonomous 5G drone network for port inspection

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The Antwerp port area has started deploying a network of six drones, which are controlled remotely via a 5G connection. These autonomous drones should help with port inspections by providing a live feed of the environment.

The area that these automated drones have to inspect covers a total of more than 120 km². The drones make a flight round eighteen times a day from their base stations, which are located at various locations around the port. They are used, among other things, for ‘berth management, monitoring, inspections of infrastructure, oil slick and floating debris detection and for supporting the safety partners in the event of incidents’, writes Port of Antwerp-Bruges.

This so-called D-Hive network is intended to strengthen the port’s digital twin. Security cameras and sensors were already used to build that real-time digital copy. The CEO of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges says that the drone network should ‘help with more efficient management of our port and even safer and smoother traffic’.

According to the port, this network is a “world first” because it is the first implementation of drone flights outside the pilot’s visual line of sight “in a complex industrial environment”. The flights are managed and controlled from the central command center in the port. The latter is done via a 5G connection, which is provided by Proximus. For the drones themselves, we collaborate with DroneMatrix and SkeyDrone.

The central command center from which drone flights are managed and controlled.