Airspace Centre for digital management of the very low-level airspace for drones in operation
On 23 January 2023, the Port of Rotterdam Authority started organising the airspace for drone use. To this end, the Airspace Centre was set up on the 14th floor of the Port of Rotterdam Authority’s offices.
In a pilot arrangement and via an Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system, this Airspace Centre will, for the next two years, manage the Very Low-Level (VLL) airspace for drones over the Europoort and Maasvlakte area, both for manned and unmanned flights.
In the very low-level airspace, air traffic control will be a fully digital process. This is currently being tested with software partner Airwayz. This makes the Port of Rotterdam Authority the first body in Europe to organise its own airspace and regulations on this scale to ensure smooth and safe drone traffic. The premise is that good airspace management will enable commercial drone services and make port processes even safer and more efficient.
The Centre will be staffed by Airspace Managers, the air traffic controllers for drones. They have a view of everyone in the air from the Airspace Centre. The Airspace Managers are employees of the Port Authority. They will be active in this role one day a week, and think along about whether airspace management can indeed be a task for the Port Authority from the point of view of safety, as well as digitisation and safe use of data.
The prototype programme will run until October 2024. During this period, knowledge will be gained on what it takes to keep the drones airspace safe, determine the impact of drone air traffic control on the organisation and get an idea of the Port Authority’s future role in the airspace. The ultimate objective is to safeguard airspace safety in the longer term. The U-Space Airspace Rotterdam prototype will also play an exemplary role in the roll-out nationwide, for example over cities.