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21 January 2021

More space, a new maker space and better testing facilities at Unmanned Valley

Start-ups, scale-ups and other stakeholders in the field of unmanned technology, autonomous systems and sensors need customised housing and good test facilities. Unmanned Valley – the field lab for sensor technologies and applications at the former Valkenburg naval air base, 16 kilometers north of The Hague in the Netherlands – and the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency (‘Rijksvastgoedbedrijf’) have accordingly accelerated the second phase of the development of ‘Building 356’. A maker space will also be built and the possibilities for indoor testing will be expanded. The investments will contribute to the further formation of a fully fledged ecosystem for drones and other sensor-based innovations in the Netherlands.

“The development of a strong ecosystem is central to enabling companies to innovate more successfully and accordingly make a greater impact, including internationally,” said Theo de Vries, programme manager at Unmanned Valley. “We have made great strides in the past year; including in the area of housing and facilities. This has translated into the growth of the community that has settled in Unmanned Valley and the number of test operations. It is important to keep the momentum going and make all the crucial elements as optimal as possible.”

According to De Vries, cooperation between the business community, educational and knowledge institutions and the government is the key to success: “I am pleased with the steps we are taking with the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency, Do IoT Field lab, Leiden Instrument Makers School, University of Applied Sciences Leiden and Inholland University of Applied Sciences. By starting earlier than originally planned with the further development of new housing options, the establishment of a ‘maker space’ and better R&D possibilities in our indoor drone centre, we are increasing the attractiveness of Unmanned Valley, stimulating cooperation between the business community and educational and knowledge institutions and building further on a major economic cluster.”

Godelieve Bun, Director of the Leiden Instrument Makers School, the leading Dutch secondary vocational school specialized in precision technology, added: “As a partner of Unmanned Valley, we offer companies access to specialist facilities for precision engineering manufacturing. Our students and faculty have been ready to work with customers to develop the latest engineering solutions for more than 130 years.”

Accelerated development of additional office and maker space
Last summer, in the first phase, the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency sustainably renovated 3,000 m2 of the former aircraft workshop ‘Building 356’ and transformed it into an inspirational working environment. The first companies, all active in the field of aerospace, drones and sensors, have already moved into Unmanned Valley.

Due to the huge interest, the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency has accelerated the start of the second development phase of Building 356. In this phase, 1,700 m2 of space will be created for a mix of start-ups, scale-ups, mature companies and knowledge institutions – including MBO College Airport, which is moving its drone activities to Unmanned Valley. The new tenants are expected to move into the new units from the second quarter onwards.

In collaboration with Leiden Instrumentation Makers School (LiS), a maker space will be created, a shared workspace with initially basic equipment for maintaining and performing small modifications to drones and other sensor-based innovations. For more complex projects, the companies will have access to the high-quality machinery and research equipment – and the associated knowledge, skills and experience – of Leiden Instrument Makers School, the IoT Forensic Lab of University of Applied Sciences Leiden and the composites laboratory of Inholland University of Applied Sciences.

Enhanced R&D capabilities through GPS positioning and state-of-the-art 5G communications infrastructure
The combination of business premises and extensive test facilities – outside in an external flightbox and in time the possibility of BVLOS-flying in a corridor to the sea, and inside in a 2000 m2 former aircraft hangar – make Unmanned Valley unique in the Netherlands.

In order to develop Hangar 1 into a multifunctional indoor drone centre, a GPS repeater and – in collaboration with Do IoT Field lab – a state-of-the-art 5G communication infrastructure will be installed. This will expand the possibilities of carrying out experimental tests, irrespective of the weather conditions and, if desired, out of sight of others.

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