News   •

30 June 2020

New accommodation for Unmanned Valley enables further development of field lab

The former Valkenburg naval air base is to become a seedbed for high-tech activity

The Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency (‘Rijksvastgoedbedrijf’) has sustainably renovated and transformed the former aircraft workshop at the former Valkenburg naval air base for Unmanned Valley, the field lab for sensor technologies and applications located 16 kilometers north of The Hague in the Netherlands. The transformation into an inspirational working environment for high-tech companies is a major step for the further development of the field lab. The first companies will move into Unmanned Valley next month.

The Province of Zuid-Holland has a high concentration of start-ups, scale-ups and other stakeholders in the field of unmanned technology, autonomous systems and sensors. Because of its location, Unmanned Valley offers them the ideal place to research, develop and test drones and other sensor-based innovations.

Henri Werij, Dean of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at Delft University of Technology, Gerard Mostert, councillor for Urban Development and Housing of the municipality of Katwijk, and Louw van Sinderen, project director of the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency, are proud of the result. The building, also known as ‘Building 356’, was completed within eighteen months of the administrative agreements on Unmanned Valley being approved.

Henri Werij: “The sector is developing rapidly. Drones and other intelligent unmanned systems are already being used for applications that were still in the future a few years ago. The test facilities of Unmanned Valley are unique in the Netherlands and it is extremely valuable that there is such a good location in the middle of the Randstad. It offers companies the opportunity to innovate faster.”

Gerard Mostert: “Unmanned Valley is becoming the new economic pillar in our region. With the completion of this building we are attracting new employment to our municipality. At the same time, these companies will become the first users of an area that will transform into a new village in the coming years.”

Louw van Sinderen: “By repurposing Building 356, for example, we are facilitating Unmanned Valley and contributing to the opportunities for the high-tech sector in this region. It is one of the components of the total transformation of the area. From a naval air base to a sustainable new village where living, working and recreation are central.”

Over 6,000 square metres for start-ups, scale-ups and larger companies
In recent years Building 356 has been renovated and transformed into an inspirational working environment for high-tech companies. The building is designed in such a way that people can easily meet each other. In this way collaboration, cross-pollination and innovation can take place.

‘356’ consists of two floors with spaces for rent ranging from 30 to 1,000 square metres and communal facilities such as a reception area, meeting rooms and training rooms. Over a length of 136.5 metres, the internal spaces overlook the adjacent test field, offering companies a unique opportunity to test new developments directly.

An internal street connects the different parts and functional sections of the building. The robust construction gives each unit great layout flexibility, suitable for a range of purposes: flex desks, offices, production, testing and training. A large part of the facade has been broken open and the window frames now let in abundant light. In the internal street of the building more glass has been used as well. This creates an open and transparent atmosphere.

The reuse of materials (‘harvested’ from buildings at other locations) and the application of innovative energy concepts were paramount in the redevelopment of the building. Hydrogen cells and special wind turbines on the roof provide green energy.

Unmanned Valley is reviving the technical past of Building 356
Building 356 was built in the 1980s specifically for the maintenance of Orion patrol aircraft of the Royal Dutch Navy. The huge rooms were workshops where engines and propellers were overhauled. The smaller rooms contained a welding shop, a paint shop, a sheet metal shop, a bench work shop and even a parachute drying tower.

Unmanned Valley is an initiative of Delft University of Technology and the municipality of Katwijk and has been made possible by a contribution from the EU’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).