Sunday, April 14, 2024

Rotterdam U-Space Demo Day: Showcasing Innovation and Integration

On the recent Demo Day at DronePort Rotterdam, key developments and innovations in the realm of U-space and drone technologies were showcased. The event featured demonstrations, presentations, and networking opportunities for 220 attendees from 15 countries, including Singapore, who witnessed the latest advancements in drone operations and air traffic management.

Opening and U-space Airspace Demonstrations

The day commenced with remarks from Oscar van Veen, Head of Digital Innovation at the Port of Rotterdam, underscoring the port’s commitment to the gathering. After this opening, the audience was treated to demonstrations by Airwayz and SKYOPS, conducted by the product manager of Airwayz and Jordy Ebbink.

In these sessions, various scenarios within the prototype U-space airspace were elucidated, covering everything from strategic deconfliction to prevent drone flights in no-fly zones or overlapping flight paths to maintaining vertical separation among different airspace users. Airwayz’s system played a pivotal role in all scenarios, highlighting the sophistication of U-space airspace management.

Challenges Associated with BVLOS Flying

Tsjerk Kooistra from the Dutch Drone Company explained the workings of their ‘drone in a box’ system, including challenges related to BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) flights due to connection loss. With FlightOps integration, connections can also be established via 5G, enabling simultaneous operations. There are numerous potential applications for BVLOS drone flights in maritime contexts, including infrastructure inspections, environmental monitoring, border surveillance, and logistics applications.

During this session, a live drone flight executed by the Dutch Drone Company was demonstrated. This required submitting a 4D flight authorization request to Airwayz through the FlightOps mission control platform, allowing the flight to be executed and monitored live in the room.

Shay Levy introduced FlightOps, emphasizing the need to transition from drone pilots to scalable solutions. An ‘Artificial Flight Intelligence’ solution has been developed to encapsulate the knowledge and expertise of human drone pilots through AI and algorithms. The software from FlightOps is utilized across various sectors, including drone delivery, inspections, public safety, and defense, serving as an interface between drone operators and UTM (Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management) systems like Airwayz’s.

Further Demonstrations and Integration of UTM-ATM

The second session included demonstrations and presentations by Avy, Airwayz, ST Engineering, and NLR. James and Lucas from Avy discussed several scenarios regarding future flight requests and the handling of restrictions received after approval. Topics included avoiding certain ships, prioritizing emergency drone flights in real time, and facilitating ‘ghost operations’. The presentation by NLR focused on the integration of UTM-ATM systems, with an eye towards future drone operations in controlled airspace and urban environments.

Airwayz revealed its new web application and discussed the integration of Remote ID data through DJI Cloud API, the possibility of covert operations for specific authorities like the police and customs, and dynamic airspace reconfiguration (DAR) scenarios. ST Engineering shared insights from Singapore and their interest in scaling operations for SAIL 3-4 use cases., as the first operator, demonstrated real-time drone positioning in the UTM system using the DJI Cloud API available on the latest DJI Enterprise models. Feedback from about the URL experience will be used to facilitate other drone operators with similar drones in sending their position information, marking an important step towards enhancing flight safety. produces documentaries, corporate and advertising films, and also employs drones for tracking athletes and capturing atmospheric images of events.

U-space Updates and Developments at DronePort Rotterdam

Wilbert Ritsema from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management provided an update on the Dutch U-space developments. The vision is for U-space to evolve step-by-step in the Netherlands, where unmanned aviation of societal value is integrated into the national airspace in a safe, efficient, and manageable manner. Starting with BVLOS flying in atypical airspace, followed by BVLOS operations in generic airspace, are the initial steps. However, questions remain regarding the financing of U-space and its implementation strategy.

Niels Kalshoven and Arthur Dalau discussed the development of DronePort Rotterdam. This new initiative aims to accelerate collaboration, policymaking, and innovation with a focus on the Rotterdam port area. An agenda for 2024-2030 will soon be unveiled.

The session concluded with a presentation by Ampelmann Skylines on using drones for goods delivery to wind farms and an introduction to the Drone Fusion platform by Saxion. As the day’s finale, Ampelmann Skylines conducted an outdoor demonstration of a drone flight using the new DJI Flycart 30 delivery drone.

Comprehensive Overview

In summary, the DronePort Rotterdam Demo Day offered a comprehensive overview of the current state and future possibilities in drone technology and operations, focusing on innovation, collaboration, and the implementation of U-space in the Netherlands.

Special thanks to Huib Kling (Rijkswaterstaat) for taking notes during the demo day. Cover photo: Roy Borghouts Photography

Wiebe de Jager

Wiebe de Jager is the founder of Dronewatch (available in Dutch and English). Wiebe is an experienced drone pilot (EASA Specific category certified) and has published a number of bestselling books about drone photography and cinematography.

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