The Port of Rotterdam announced on March 25th the rollout of airspace and procedures after a market consultation for parties that can support the U-space prototype.
In their press release announcing the airspace deployment, the Port of Rotterdam stated that “increasing the operational safety of manned and unmanned traffic in the port area is one of the main motivations. Improving the visibility of aircrafts is another. Better identification of unmanned flights, the option of banning flights over sensitive locations and security also play a role. Airspace monitoring will provide insight into the use of the sky and make it possible to enforce regulations. At the same time, but no less important, an unmanned traffic management system will enable drone operators to offer their services safely to the ports’ clients.”
The Port Authority also released a white paper on the program, “Drone Port of Rotterdam; U-Space Airspace Prototype” that outlines in further detail the proposed plan for the airspace.
This announcement comes at a time when drone applications in the port are currently involved in incident control, supervision, inspections, combating crime and drug smuggling. Many experimental Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights have not yet received permission. For example, delivery of parts on board a ship, or cargo inspections before the ship arrives in the port. With U-space services in place, BVLOS permissions may be accelerated.
The prototype, starting in summer 2022 for a period of 2 years, will provide answers to questions about how to organize and control the low altitude airspace in the port in a way that ensures safety whilst providing opportunities. It will help determine the role that the Port Authority will play in low-level airspace. It will also give a substantiated impression of the type and amount of work involved in drone airspace control and the costs involved.
Why it’s important: This U-space airspace rollout will enable quicker paths toward BVLOS operational permits and ultimately more flexibility for mixed airspace use cases for future aerial mobility operations. Streamlining the pathway towards approval to operate within more congested areas, either from human presence on the ground, air traffic, or mixed commercial use, will allow more operators to deploy their drones (and eventually aerial mobility aircraft) easier and safer.