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20 April 2021

Unmanned Valley and nature conservationists to explore collaboration

Regional nature conservationist and drinking water supply company Dunea, State Forestry (‘Staatsbosbeheer’) and Unmanned Valley are to explore the possibility of carrying out drone and other sensor-based research in the Berkheide dune area. The collaboration is expected to lead to new insights and opportunities for the use of these innovations in nature and water catchment areas in a good relationship with safety, regulations and governance.

Unmanned Valley is located in the immediate vicinity of Berkheide, a protected nature and water area within the context of Natura 2000, where State Forestry and Dunea are the main wildlife managers. The joint study focuses on a possible flight route from Unmanned Valley to the North Sea (intended for research into sensor technologies and applications), the monitoring of drone and other air traffic (authorised and unauthorised) and the use of drones and sensor technology by Dunea and State Forestry in their own operations.

Safety first
Dunea wants to investigate what research activities of Unmanned Valley are possible without creating risks for water extraction and nature quality. Wim Drossaert, Managing Director of Dunea: “The care for dunes and water is our first, second and third priority. At the same time, we believe that new technologies are necessary if we are to continue to perform our tasks to everyone’s satisfaction in the future. That is why we are looking into the possibilities of using technology in conjunction with the protection and experience of our natural habitats and water catchment area.”

Opportunities for wildlife management
State Forestry is also keen to explore the possibilities of professional drone use above protected nature reserves. “Drone and sensor technology are increasingly becoming part of everyday life,” explains Nick de Snoo, Head of Forestry Management South Holland. “The technologies are already being used in numerous sectors to make work safer and more efficient, for example in the fields of inspection and enforcement, research and surveying. Our interest is obviously in applications for wildlife management.”

Scope for innovation
Theo de Vries, programme manager at Unmanned Valley, is pleased with the collaboration: “There is growing interest in using drones and other sensor-based applications. Drones make it possible to collect data at lightning speed. At the same time, unauthorised recreational flying with drones over nature reserves is becoming more common and is currently a blind spot. The exploration with Dunea and State Forestry opens the door to the further development of innovative business cases, drone safety and regulation.”