Rotterdam Tests In-Water Drones

Published Sep 3, 2016 3:30 AM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Rotterdam is pioneering a new technology it says will make the port smarter: a water drone. The AquasmartXL is a small, unmanned boat, equipped with a camera. It sends images in real time to the quay, providing a flexible solution for surveillance and inspection from the water surface.

Another recent example of innovation at the port is the Waste Shark. The device, the size of a passenger car, has an ‘open mouth’ that is located at 35 centimetres below the water surface used to remove up to 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of waste from the water. The waste is then processed.

For the next six months, four waste sharks will perform a test run for the Port of Rotterdam Authority to clean up litter in the Rotterdam docks. 

The Aquadrone can also be encountered live in the port. The drone inspects concrete structures for an oil terminal and visualises them in 3D. This is done at places where it is too difficult, dangerous or undesirable to use manned solutions. This includes under jetties, bridges and other structures.

“Innovation flows through Rotterdam, like the water through the Maas,” a poetic entrepreneur once said. That is definitely true. Not because it is 'nice to have', but because it is a necessary step towards a successful future. Therefore, the Port Authority is fully committed to all possible ways of innovation, says Allard Castelein, Chief Executive Officer of the Port of Rotterdam Authority. “Innovation cannot be forced. However, you can create an environment in which innovation is likely to take place and be in line with the market.”

The Port Authority achieves this through an Innovation Eco System. Castelein says: “We support research in conjunction with universities, such as the Port Innovation Lab with Delft University of Technology and of course our own Erasmus University in Rotterdam. And we collaborate with contests for students. In addition, we support Dutch start-ups that are relevant to the port, but we also scout worldwide via PortXL; the first accelerator that focuses on port start-ups on a global level.”

The water drones active in the port are among the results of the Innovation Eco System.