The Port of Rotterdam Authority says it is conducting trials with Dutch drone manufacturer Avy’s new Aera 3 autonomous aircraft to see if it can support inspectors and shipping masters in their work.
For the next few months, the white-orange Avy Aera 3 will fly weekly over Maasvlakte and Europoort, taking off automatically from a docking station installed at the Rotterdam-Rijnmond Pilotage Service at Pistoolhaven.
More specifically, the trials will focus on sea-going and inland shipping inspections by the Harbour Master’s Division. The drone will be on the lookout for issues such as bunkering, water pollution, ship-to-ship transfer, zoning for hazardous substances, shore-to-ship transfer, air pollution (smoke or soot), and repairs on board vessels. If the drone detects an open tank filler cap, for instance, it might be an indication of illegal degassing by the ship and call for a closer look by the port officials.
On flight days, operations will begin with a briefing with helicopter group NHV’s pilots who are also stationed on the Pilotage Service site. Since the drone and helicopters are to share the same airspace, the authority wants to ensure there are clear rules in place for the airspace’s utilization. So, if on day, for example, the NHV is carrying out search and rescue operations, the port inspection drone will not be flown.
Why Avy Aera 3
Designed to meet the latest EU drone regulations, the Aera 3 has a wing span of 2.40 meters and a 95-km range at low energy consumption. Two or three drones, cruising at a speed of up to 90 km per hour, are sufficient not only to cover the entire port area but to also reach a defined spot quickly when an incident occurs. It also helps that the drone can carry small cargoes of up to 3 kg, such as refrigerated medical supplies, vessel parts, or cargo samples.