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Ports can be the proving ground for city drone eco systems

The Port of Antwerp has become the second world seaport to introduce a drone eco-system managed by a separate UTM hub. Poland’s Gdansk port – with a UTM system from the Polish Air Navigation Service Agency – and Antwerp port – hosting a Unifly system – are blazing a trail in a market which should be huge and lucrative for UTM service suppliers, allowing drone operators and systems managers to hone their skills in industrial areas before they are transferred to inhabited sites.

But it is a deceptively complex one. At first sight, a port offers a perfect contained market for UTM service suppliers. There are few residents to placate, a single authority with clear boundaries, large areas of sea and industrial storage which can be overflown without incurring major risks and a huge range of tasks which can be fulfilled by drones far more cheaply and efficiently than currently possible. These range from assuring perimeter security, environmental monitoring to ship-to-shore deliveries.

But the UTM task is extremely complex. The area is very dynamic. Many goods being stored and transferred are classified as dangerous/volatile cargo and the number of organisations with stakeholder interests in the port can number more than a thousand.

Which makes the UTM challenge strategically important. If cities and other communities want to see a real live industrial drone eco-system at work there at least two places they can now reference.


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