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Port of Antwerp deploys drones to detect floating debris

By Chris Stonor

The Port of Antwerp is proud to announce, “Floating debris does not belong (here)!” The reason being it is deploying drones to detect and then quickly clean the debris, reports a press release.

This is just one of the port’s innovative digital solutions contributing to a clean and safe dock area that Belgium’s Federal Deputy Prime Minister, Petra De Sutter, got to see with her own eyes during a visit this week.

Every year, around 50 tonnes of floating debris are collected from the port’s docks, constituting of plastics, wood, cardboard, organic material and mooring lines.

The release says, “To reduce water pollution, impact on biodiversity and damage to ships, it is important to detect and clean up this waste as soon as possible. But since the total port area covers more than 120 km², many eyes are needed to screen this gigantic area.”

It goes on, “Thanks to the unique bird’s eye views they provide, drones can make a significant contribution to detect floating debris. This is why Port of Antwerp has developed a “machine vision” application that, based on drone images, automatically builds a map that indicates where floating debris is present.”

By deploying such craft, which will soon be flying over the entire port several times a day, floating debris can then be located and cleaned up more quickly and efficiently.

Petra De Sutter, commented, “I see a glimpse of the future here in the port of Antwerp. It is a good example of how digitalisation, a clean environment and the fight against climate change can go hand in hand.”

She continued, “With the help of 5G, in particular, a drone can transmit very large amounts of data without any problem. This is not only good for the environment, but also for safety. The port is close to the city. If there is a fire, the thermal cameras can immediately help the fire brigade.”

Petra De Sutter

Piet Opstaele, Port of Antwerp’s Innovation Enablement Manager, added, “A clean and safe port is an absolute priority. The use of drones for floating debris detection is a fine example of how innovation and digitisation can contribute to this. We were able to show the minister today how innovative solutions will make the port future-proof.”

According to the port’s authorities, the deployment of drones will play an increasingly important role in its future. The aim is to develop a network of autonomous craft that can provide a ‘live feed’ of the various port activities and support the Harbour Safety & Security (HSS) unit and its security partners as much as possible.

Annick De Ridder, Port Alderman, remarked, “The use of drones will allow us to locate floating debris in the vastly expanded port area systematically, intelligently and efficiently from 2023. As such, thanks to innovation and digitisation, we can reduce water pollution, impact on biodiversity and damage to ships to a minimum.”

Other types of drone tasks that can be performed include inspecting infrastructure, surveillance and monitoring, incident management, berth management and the detection of oil spills or floating debris. To stream images from the craft in real time, 5G will be used in the future.

The release continues, “This is already happening in incident management, as was the case last year when the fire department was supported by a live stream of drone footage via the 5G network to deal with a blaze in the port area. Thanks to a combination of colour and infrared images, the department gained a better idea of the location of these fires.”

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(News Source: https://newsroom.portofantwerp.com/#)

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