Port of Antwerp uses drone to detect floating garbage

The port of Antwerp will search for floating garbage with a drone. In this way, the port wants to detect and clean up the waste in the water as quickly as possible. The drone is also used for inspection and security. The port of Antwerp is the first port in Europe to deploy a drone in this way.

About fifty tons of floating waste is removed every year from the docks in the port, Piet Opstaele, innovation manager at the port of Antwerp, told the Gazet van Antwerpen. This waste consists of, among other things, plastic, wood and cardboard. “Apart from the burden on the environment, this also causes us economic damage. Ships’ screws can become entangled in the ropes, which accounts for a few 100,000 euros in damage claims every year,” says Opstaele.

The intention is that the drone will make ten to twelve flights a day over the port area, which covers 120 square kilometers. The device flies independently, although it can also be operated from a control room in the port. The drone takes images and a map is automatically made from those images. Tracing the garbage can be done much more systematically and faster this way, says Opstaele. “This way you get less settling of waste, resulting in a reduction of the environmental impact. It is also cheaper, because we can clear the waste more specifically at certain hotspots.”

The drone is also used for inspection and security. For example, the drone has already been used to support the fire service during a fire outbreak in the port, which livestreamed the images of the fire. It can take infrared images, which are useful in bad weather conditions and smoke formation. The infrared images can, for example, be used by the fire service to see if there are people in a burning building.

Furthermore, the drone is equipped with a processor with artificial intelligence, which it can use during flight to, for example, chase intruders or vehicles during a police patrol. The drone can also be used to inspect the windmills in the harbor.