The Port of Rotterdam Authority announced on October 24th that they’ve selected Airwayz as their partner to build the U-Space Airspace prototype for the port industrial complex.

The partnership will be over a period of two years in which the U-Space services will be set up and the Airwayz unmanned traffic management (UTM) system will be configured to the ports’ needs and requirements.

The Port of Rotterdam Authority believes that monitoring the lower airspace and offering UAS traffic services will in the future greatly support drone services and allow them to thrive. Another primary goal of the U-space is to increase the safety and efficiency of drone services and prepare for the next generation of advanced airspace operations.

Drone services, including surveillance, inspection, incident control, combating crime and drug smuggling, are already making the port area safer and will increase efficiencies across many other port processes. A step further from existing services are delivery drone flights, for instance, delivering parts on board a ship, or take cargo samples before the ship arrives in the port. U-Space services will accelerate these flights. Yet another step further is the hybrid port of the future, in which drones will play a role in freight and passenger transport alongside vessels, trains and trucks.

The Port of Rotterdam is preparing its airspace and procedures for the future and has taken on an investigative role in the expected rise in volume of air traffic. The prototype will provide answers to questions about how to organize and control the low altitude airspace in the port in a way that ensures safety while also expanding opportunities for commercial growth and better processes. PoR’s acceleration of these types of operation will help answer key questions related to the future of unmanned system airspace integration, for both drones and eVTOLs alike.

The prototyping stage for PoR’s U-space is planned to cover a period of two years. In this period PoR and Airwayz will co-operate with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management for the purpose of developing the governance, finance and legal framework for airspace management. The practical experiences, as gained by the prototype, will feed back to regulators.

Why it’s important: The Port of Rotterdam and Airwayz will work together over the coming years to develop experience related to U-space airspace integration in a controlled environment that will accelerate integration efforts and help to increase understanding of key issues that face unmanned air traffic management (UTM) that must be resolved prior to deployment of aerial mobility traffic at scale. This testbed airspace then is importantly distinguished from operational airspaces in that it’ll iterate to handle larger and more complex load factors over time. PoR has also interestingly questioned whether they’ll maintain some level of authority over the resulting airspace in the long run or if governmental agencies will integrate lower altitude airspace into their domains.

Posted by Naish Gaubatz