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20 april 2021

Unmanned Valley and nature conservationists to explore collaboration

Image: Toine Cornelissen
Regional nature conservationist and drinking water supply company Dunea, State Forestry and Unmanned Valley are going to explore to what extent it is possible to conduct drone and other sensor-based research in the Berkheide dune area. The expectation is that the collaboration will lead to new insights and opportunities for the use of these innovations in nature and water extraction areas in a good relationship with safety, regulations and governance.

Unmanned Valley is located in the vicinity of Berkheide, a Natura 2000 protected nature and water extraction area, where State Forestry and Dunea are the main nature managers. The collaboration focuses on three topics: a possible flight corridor from Unmanned Valley to the North Sea (intended for research into sensor-based technologies), the monitoring of drone and other air traffic (authorized and unauthorized), and the use of drones and sensor technology by Dunea and State Forestry in their own operations.

Safely ahead
Dunea would like to explore which research activities of Unmanned Valley are possible, without risks to water extraction and nature quality. Wim Drossaert, Managing Director of Dunea: “The care for dunes and water is our 1st, 2nd and 3rd priority. At the same time, we believe that new technologies are key to be able to continue to perform our tasks to everyone’s satisfaction in the future. That is why we are exploring opportunities for technology in conjunction with the protection and experience of our nature and water extraction area.”

Opportunities for nature conservation
State Forestry would also like to investigate the opportunities for the professional use of drones above a protected nature reserve. “Increasingly drone and sensor technology are becoming a part of everyday life,” explains Nick de Snoo, Head of Forestry Management South Holland. “The technologies are already being applied in many sectors to make work safer and more efficient. For example in the areas of inspection and enforcement, research and surveying. Naturally, we are interested in applications for nature management.”

Room for innovation
Theo de Vries, program manager at Unmanned Valley, is pleased with the collaboration: “There is growing attention for the use of drones and other sensor-based applications. For example, drones make it possible to collect data at lightning speed. At the same time, and what seems to be a blind spot, the general belief is that more and more unauthorised recreational drones fly over protected nature areas. The collaboration with Dunea and State Forestry opens the door to the further development of innovative business cases, drone safety and regulations.”