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07 June 2022

RVB: From Naval Airbase Valkenburg to drone-campus

Theo de Vries: “There is no blueprint, it is real pioneering to create a good concept for a completely new industry. In collaboration with the Netherlands Government Real Estate Agency (Rijksvastgoedbedrijf/RVB), we coordinated the software and hardware step by step in order to accelerate development.”

Translated from:

Over the past two years, about twenty companies have moved into the hangars next to the drone test track. “There are now about 160 people working here,” says program manager Theo de Vries of Unmanned Valley. The site has grown into a real innovation campus, where business, education and government work closely together.

The need for such a ‘field lab’ arises in Delft. Students and researchers from Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) had a need to test the drones they have designed, but that proved difficult on the university grounds. In order to meet this need, the university has set up the Unmanned Valley foundation together with the municipality of Katwijk.

De Vries: ‘TU Delft contributes startup knowledge and experience when it comes to organizing a field lab. The municipality provides regional support and establishes an administrative link with the province of South Holland and the European Union, which has resulted in serious subsidies.” The RVB facilitates Unmanned Valley by making the site available and furnishing the buildings.

Program manager Theo de Vries of Unmanned Valley: ‘There is no blueprint, it is real pioneering to create a good concept for a completely new industry. Together with the RVB, we harmonized the software and hardware step by step and in this way accelerated development’, De Vries outlines the collaboration between Unmanned Valley and the RVB.

The RVB has set up the development in 3 phases. At the start in 2020, 3,000 square meters will be made available for TU startups in the former maintenance workshops of Vliegkamp Valkenburg. De Vries: ‘That space is actually full right away’. Phase 2, which will start soon after launch, covers 2,000 square meters and has already largely been completed. The final phase of 3,000 square meters has just started. In total, the campus office buildings cover about 8,000 square meters, approximately 1.5 football fields.

With the arrival of new companies, come new wishes. For example, an old shed has been made available elsewhere on the site by the RVB. Drone builders can test their equipment in there. De Vries: ‘Drones are already being used in warehouses, for example to make an inventory of the items stored there. If you are developing a new device for this, you want to be able to test it.”

Drone Swarm
A super-fast 5G mobile network is another facility that has been built for the startups. This is necessary to be able to do tests for drone control and all the data that drones provide. The application of ‘drone swarms’ is spectacular, in which countless drones are simultaneously controlled to, for example, jointly form a figure as an alternative to fireworks.

The concentration of drone knowledge in Valkenburg attracts not only start-ups. For example, ROC Amsterdam has accommodated 25 students on the campus. And the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate has opened a branch. De Vries: ‘This will reduce the distance between policy making, enforcement and innovative new applications.’

The main mission of the Government Real Estate Agency is and will remain housing, Vermeer emphasizes. If the campus passes the agreed trial period, he will stay. At the same time, the Government Real Estate Agency stimulates an innovative industry that provides high-quality employment in South Holland. “With Unmanned Valley we show what Valkenburg can become; an innovative and sustainable living and working place.”