Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Industry update

Unmanned Valley and KPN realise test environment for drone applications & 5G

Unmanned Valley and KPN have jointly created a unique environment for developing new drone applications in the Netherlands. The collaboration between the field lab for sensor-based technologies – located just north of The Hague in the Netherlands – and the leading provider of telecommunications and IT services in the Netherlands, allows companies to easily test innovations and demonstrate applications that use the commercially available KPN networks. Unmanned Valley is the only location in the Netherlands where it is possible to experiment continuously and flexibly with drones and other sensor-based applications, also in the evening. 

In addition to 5G, KPN also makes various other networks available at Unmanned Valley, such as LoRa, LTE-M and 4G. Which type of communication technology is best for an application depends on the amount of data, the energy consumption and the frequency with which data is sent. The collaboration makes it possible for companies to easily test sensor-related innovations and demonstrate client cases in conjunction with the most appropriate communication technology. 

Our world is becoming more and more digital. Just about all ‘things’ around us – from refrigerators, cars and machines to buildings, dikes and even farmland – can be connected to the internet; the Internet of Things (IoT). Sensors and other special hardware are used for this. Once these ‘things’ are online, they can communicate and exchange data. This can provide a wealth of new information allowing users and other connected parties to organize business processes smarter, faster and more efficiently or to develop new business opportunities. 

5G has been available in the Netherlands since July 2020 and KPN has been testing 5G applications with customers and technology partners in various sectors for several years, including new drone applications. For example, to use less crop protection products in potato cultivation, for parcel delivery to ships, the urgent transport of blood, medicines and other medical goods or the use of drones as an extra pair of eyes for locating drowning persons by the Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution (‘KNRM’). 5G has a larger capacity and makes mobile data traffic a lot faster and more reliable. 

“The fascinating thing about the introduction of new technology is that in a few years’ time we will see applications that we don’t know about yet. That is why we want to enable companies to test and demonste new applications,” says Jacob Groote, responsible for Innovation & Partnerships at KPN. “Our distinctive 5G services, such as application priority, guaranteed bandwidth and coverage on demand, are a very important driver behind the renewal of business processes and further digitization of the Netherlands.”

“The partnership with KPN offers companies the opportunity to accelerate their innovation capacity and to strengthen their competitiveness. I am proud that Unmanned Valley is the first Dutch location for startups, scale-ups and others to easily get started with the opportunities that mobile network technology opens for them, including 5G”, says Theo de Vries, program manager at Unmanned Valley. “5G will play a major role in the further development of innovative drone and other sensor-based applications. It opens the door to all kinds of new applications and the economic and social potential is enormous.”

Unmanned Valley is an initiative of Delft University of Technology and the municipality of Katwijk and is made possible by the Dutch central and regional government as well as the EU’s Regional Development Fund (ERDF). In time, Unmanned Valley must develop into a breeding ground for high-tech activities. 

In 2020 the first companies – all active in the field of aerospace, drones and sensors – moved to Unmanned Valley. For 2021 the priorities will be the further development of the housing and test facilities as well as strengthening the link between the business community, educational and knowledge institutions and governments. 

Earlier this year, Unmanned Valley announced that it would explore the opportunities of conducting drone and other sensor-related research in the Berkheide dune area, together with regional nature conservationist and drinking water supply company Dunea and State Forestry. Also a subsidy scheme has been launched to help startups and scale-ups accelerate the development of high-tech innovations. 

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