BVLOS flying makes it possible to work faster, better, safer and more efficiently in many sectors and, because the propulsion system is based on electricity or hydrogen, also making existing business activities more sustainable. Think, for example, of inspecting wind turbines in the North Sea, high-voltage pylons or dykes, for urgent transport of medical goods or the supply of ships and platforms at sea, to support emergency services during monitoring or all kinds of calamities, or in precision agriculture, to determine where and how much plant protection products should be applied.
The drone industry is rapidly maturing and the growth figures – at more than 10% at global, European and Dutch level – are significant. A growing number of companies, both startups, scale-ups and more established companies, will make the step from proof-of-concepts to the actual use of drones in their business activities.
The realization of the BVLOS flight corridor desired by the sector by Unmanned Valley and its project partners means the realization of a unique test opportunity in the Netherlands. Absolutely unique to Unmanned Valley’s BVLOS case is the ability to enable “multi-user” authorization. No other field lab in the Netherlands is creating such a test facility.
The BVLOS flight corridor envisioned by Unmanned Valley and its project partners will increase the distinctiveness of Unmanned Valley compared to other drone and test field-related initiatives and field labs in the Netherlands. But more importantly, the corridor gives a boost to the innovation and success capacity of the Dutch drone sector, opens the door to fully exploit the economic and social potential of drones, and strengthens and renews the economy in general.
The Consortium – Unmanned Valley; the SMBs AirHub, DECK180, Robin Radar Systems; the municipality of Katwijk; Tu Delft; Central government real estate company; and Staatsbosbeheer – have well-founded reasons to cooperate and/or resources to realize the BVLOS flight corridor from Unmanned Valley to the sea. They are supported in their ambition by other stakeholders such as companies from the drone sector, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the Environment and Transport Inspectorate, Air Traffic Control the Netherlands, NLR, the province of South Holland and InnovationQuarter.
After the ERDF period, Unmanned Valley is on its way to continue to grow into a successful field lab with attractive, fast-growing high-tech sensor-based companies, which provide a positive impulse to the innovative strength and high-quality technical employment in the region. To eventually develop into an important economic cluster with 1000 to 1500 jobs.
More than 80 percent (of the budget) of the project to realize a BVLOS corridor from Unmanned Valley to the sea is being carried out with and by SMEs. This project offers them the opportunity to develop solutions and make them “market ready”. For all SMEs involved, the activities in the project plan are directly in line with their roadmap and give them the opportunity to (continue to) play a pioneering role in the drone sector. The solutions have a wide variety of application areas. The project to realize a BVLOS corridor from Unmanned to the sea gives them a boost to accelerate their innovative products and services – which are necessary to fly BVLOS safely – and to accelerate their recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
The BVLOS project is in line with the digital transition (flying unmanned, carrying out inspections with less manpower, application of artificial intelligence in flight paths and collision avoidance) and is a prelude to green. After all, drones fly on electricity and are expected to increasingly also use hydrogen to bridge long distances.
A subsidy of € 700,000 will be awarded for the development of a BVLOS flight corridor from Unmanned Valley to the sea. A subsidy from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) means that the corridor can be developed at an accelerated pace, with a positive operational result being achieved within 2.5 years. By actively bringing together and facilitating a consortium of SMEs, knowledge institutions, public organizations and governments, knowledge, expertise and experience can be shared, learned from each other and a flywheel is set in motion. In total, almost € 1.4 million will be invested.
This project is made possible by the European Regional Development Fund, co-financed as part of the Union’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.