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10 September 2020

First companies drone and aerospace companies move into Unmanned Valley

Unmanned Valley – the field lab for sensor technologies and applications at the former Valkenburg naval airbase in Katwijk, the Netherlands – is welcoming its first companies, all active in the field of aerospace, drones and sensors. This is a major step in the development of a fully fledged ecosystem for drones and other sensor-based innovations and a further strengthening of the aerospace sector in the Netherlands.

Aerialtronics, Deck180, Drone Flight Company, Dutch Drone Academy, Elkay International (Europe) and Marshall Netherlands are the first companies to move in. Atmos, Drone Light Labs and will move to Unmanned Valley in the next few months.

With the arrival of these companies, the first phase of ‘Building 356’ has been very successfully developed and the space that recently became available is already almost totally filled. It is expected that in the next phase the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency (‘Rijksvastgoedbedrijf’) will realise 1,700 m2 of space for a mix of start-ups and scale-ups, mature companies and knowledge institutions.

“There was already more and more testing on the site, but with the move of the first companies, Unmanned Valley is really coming to life,” says Theo de Vries, programme manager at Unmanned Valley. “Drones often only make the headlines as a threat to air traffic or as a pizza delivery service. These companies show that the reality is different and that the economic and social potential for the Netherlands is gigantic.”

De Vries is also full of praise for the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency: “During the COVID-19 crisis, the agency continued the renovation and transformation work. It is now a place where collaboration, cross-pollination and innovation can take place. This is so inspiring for start-ups, scale-ups and others that we had already leased 90% of the units well before the official completion date in July and the second phase can be developed earlier than expected.”

“Unmanned Valley has the potential to grow into a hotspot for unmanned and sensor-based businesses. Innovative companies are looking for a well-developed ecosystem. Even more than a suitable office location, they want access to the right network, technology and talent,” says Rinke Zonneveld, director of regional economic development company InnovationQuarter. “The Netherlands and in particular the greater Rotterdam-The Hague area have a good reputation worldwide in the aerospace sector. The clusters aerospace, aviation and drones are closely linked, and all relevant players in training, research and knowledge institutions and business actively cooperate in this highly developed metropolitan area.”

In addition to the Dutch start-ups and scale-ups that have established themselves in Unmanned Valley, the location also appears to have international attraction; various foreign companies have already relocated their activities to Katwijk, a coastal town located 16 kilometers north of The Hague..

The companies that will be the first to set up in Unmanned Valley are:
• Aerialtronics DV, since 2017 part of the French group Drone Volt, develops drones and intelligent cameras for numerous applications; from land measurements and support of the fire brigade to inspection of wind turbines and high-voltage pylons. Recently, Aerialtronics has also developed software that allows existing IP cameras to easily see if people are wearing a mouth mask.
• Atmos was founded in 2013 and has developed a drone that combines the flexibility of a helicopter with the speed and range of an aircraft. As a result, it requires little space to take off and land vertically, but can also travel long distances efficiently, features that are essential for mapping larger areas. The company has raised funding from Disruptive Technology Ventures in 2018 and 2020.
• DECK180 has been developing solutions to allow multiple drones to operate autonomously at the same time in industrial and public environments since 2017.
• Drone Flight Company is a market leader in the use of drones for the business market and helps organisations integrate drones into their operations. The company’s training arm, Drone Flight Academy, is a government-certified flight school and develops and provides training, instruction and workshops focused on flying drones safely and responsibly.
• Drone Light Labs, founded in 2017, produces the world-famous aerial installation Franchise Freedom for Studio Drift and others. The artwork consists of an autonomously flying swarm of hundreds of drones and uses a specially developed algorithm based on the flight behaviour of starlings. One of the essential components of the artwork is swarm intelligence.
• Dutch Drone Academy was the first Dutch drone school (2013) and currently is a market leader in the field of drone training (RTF-accredited), active as European drone operator (ROC+, ROC-L, Attestation class 2 BE) and publisher of drone textbooks and digital learning environments for professionals, fellow drone schools and secondary vocational training.
• Elkay International (Europe) exports European electronic components and systems to companies in the Indian telecommunications, defence, aerospace and aviation sectors.
• is a start-up founded in 2018 that is developing an autonomously operating ‘drone-in-a-box’ system. The goal is to be able to deploy the system for a variety of applications, such as monitoring industrial facilities, securing business parks and deployment during emergencies.
• Marshall Netherlands is part of Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group (Cambridge, UK) – one of the largest independent technology companies in Europe. The company specialises, among other things, in the design, manufacture and maintenance of defence-related shelter systems and the conversion, modification and maintenance of military and civilian aircraft. Marshall has supported the Royal Netherlands Air Force for more than 20 years, and at the end of 2018 the company won a contract to supply and maintain 1,400 container systems for the entire Dutch armed forces.

Rapidly growing sector
In many sectors, drone and related technologies are already making it possible to work faster, better, safer and more efficiently. With the further development and integration of robotisation, artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning and the Internet of Things, the number of useful applications is rapidly increasing.

Research firm Drone Industry Insights expects the global drone market to grow to $42.8 billion by 2025. This is almost double the size in 2020 ($22.5 billion). The European market will also almost double; from $5.19 billion today to $9.86 billion in 2025.

Unmanned Valley is an initiative of Delft University of Technology and the municipality of Katwijk. It has been made possible by the Dutch central and regional government as well as the EU’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). In time, Unmanned Valley should grow into a seedbed for high-tech activity.