SAFIR consortium demonstrates viable drone traffic in Port of Antwerp

On September 26th, the SAFIR consortium held an Open Day hosted by the Port of Antwerp where a multitude of industrial and commercial drone applications were on display during live demonstrations.

 SAFIR stands for Safe and Flexible Integration of Initial U-space Services in a Real Environment. The SAFIR consortium is led by Unifly and consists of 13 public and private organisations, with each organization bringing its expertise to the table.

 During the Open Day, the safety and economic viability of integrated drone traffic in a challenging environment was successfully demonstrated by the various use cases of the consortium partners. Three U-space Service Providers (USSP) and skeyes, the Belgian Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP), jointly controlled the airspace. The demonstrations proved that interoperable, harmonized and standardized U-space services can be deployed in a safe and reliable manner across Europe.

 The SAFIR use cases were first successfully tested at the state-of-the-art secured test environment of DronePort in Sint-Truiden. Its large flying areas for both manned and unmanned aviation make DronePort the perfect setup for developing and testing an ecosystem where both kind of aircraft can operate alongside in a safe context.

 Next, the consortium showed their drone operations live in front of the over 180 people in attendance, in a realistic urban and industrial environment including the city and Port of Antwerp.

 Aveillant, part of the Thales group, deployed radar technology for the ground-based detection of all aerial movements, calculating the likelihood that an unidentified object could be a drone.

 Proximus is the leading Belgian telecommunication company. During the SAFIR demonstrations, Proximus demonstrated their customized, separate mobile (LTE, 4G) network for drone operations as part of the Internet of Flying Things. Their ‘drone layer’ network, as a transition towards 5G, ensures a reliable broadband connectivity in the air and avoids interferences with mobile phone data, guaranteeing the required security levels.

 Portuguese drone solution provider TEKEVER continuously monitored the port area for irregularities, such as oil spills. Explicit, a technology company from Denmark, used drones equipped with micro sensor technology to verify if ships’ emissions met the requirements within the port. In each case, the harbour master could request the drone to inspect a certain ship or area should it warrant further inspection.

 C-Astral is a Slovenian manufacturer of long-endurance drones, and an aerospace solutions provider. In collaboration with Elia, they performed power line and environmental mapping. Elia Group is part of Europe's top 5 in electricity transmission, operating 18,600 km of high-voltage connections. Elia explored the use of drones to conduct the inspection and mapping of critical infrastructure; in particular pylon inspection.

Amazon Prime Air tested the viability of package delivery within 30 minutes by drone. To guarantee and maintain a safe airspace, it was essential for the UTM system of the large drone operator to continuously exchange the necessary information in real-time with the other U-space service providers as well as with skeyes. skeyes is ready to integrate the ever-growing drone traffic into existing air traffic and continue to secure the safety of all air traffic. ​ In case of a conflict, all drones need to be immediately aware of any necessary deconfliction. 

 Helicus develops aerial logistic solution for the medical sector, enabling hospitals to rapidly exchange medical samples and medications without delays due to traffic. During the SAFIR demonstrations, Helicus and Belgian aeronautical company SABCA demonstrated medical inter-hospital transport by drone.

 Unifly, leading global provider of Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) software, provided their UTM platform in conjunction with the UTM systems of Amazon, ? and ?. The three UTM systems successfully worked together, exchanging information and allowing authorities to effectively manage the drone traffic in the air during the demonstration. At the same time, they showcased the interoperability of their UTM platforms and how they can be interoperable with a traditional Air Traffic Management (ATM) system as well.

 Covering over 120 km2, the Port of Antwerp is a very large area with critical infrastructure. In case of calamity, every second counts to avert disaster. The SAFIR project has proven that the use of drones is an immense addition to the safety as the Port authorities can manage, inspect and control a large area in a swift and safe manner.

 The SAFIR Open Day proved the ability of drones to safeguard critical areas, such as an international port or an urban environment. It was demonstrated how the Port of Antwerp was able to request a drone to inspect a certain area should there be reason for concern.

 In addition, the demonstrations showed how multiple UTM systems can be interoperable, ensuring every airspace user is aware of airspace conditions at all times.



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About skeyes

skeyes ensures the safety and efficiency of air traffic in Belgium 24/7. The skeyes air traffic controllers manage over 3,000 aircraft every day, which makes up over a million flight movements per year. The autonomous public company is active at the heart of Europe, in one of the busiest and most complex sections of airspace of the continent. skeyes is active at Brussels Airport and at the airports of Antwerp, Charleroi, Kortrijk, Liège and Ostend. Thanks to its CANAC 2 control centre skeyes manages the flight movements above Belgium and a part of Luxembourg up to an altitude of 7,500 metres (*). The company relies on its nearly 900 experienced staff members who are at the service of their customers: airline companies, airports, the aviation sector and the authorities. skeyes also develops innovating services regarding drones and contributes to a sustainable future of the aviation sector, among other things with respect to the environment.

skeyes is a member of FABEC, a joint airspace block (Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland) with the aim of improving air navigation efficiency in the heart of Europe in the framework of the Single European Sky.

(*) The upper airspace of the Benelux countries and North West Germany is managed jointly with the EUROCONTROL centre in Maastricht. 


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