Water drone is Rotterdam's latest port innovation

Rotterdam is a port of pioneers. It always has been. Ever since the 'insane' plan of Pieter Caland to build the Nieuwe Waterweg, new solutions that make the port of Rotterdam smarter, more efficient, better and more sustainable are thought up constantly. One of the latest developments is the water drone.

“Innovation flows through Rotterdam, like the water through the Maas,” a poetic entrepreneur once said. That is definitely true. Not because it is 'nice to have', but because it is a necessary step towards a successful future. Therefore, the Port Authority is fully committed to all possible ways of innovation, says Allard Castelein, Chief Executive Officer of the Port of Rotterdam Authority. “Innovation cannot be forced. However, you can create an environment in which innovation is likely to take place and be in line with the market.”

Innovation Eco System

The Port Authority achieves this through an Innovation Eco System. Castelein: “We support research in conjunction with universities, such as the Port Innovation Lab with Delft University of Technology and of course our own Erasmus University in Rotterdam. And we collaborate with contests for students. In addition, we support Dutch start-ups that are relevant to the port, but we also scout worldwide via PortXL; the first accelerator that focuses on port start-ups on a global level.”

Unmanned water drone inspects the port

The water drones active in the port today are among the results of the Innovation Eco System. The AquasmartXL, for instance. This is a small, unmanned boat, equipped with a camera. It sends images in real time to the quay, thus providing a flexible solution for surveillance and inspection from the water surface.

Waste Shark hunts waste

Another example is the Waste Shark, which is a good size bigger than the AquasmartXL. The device, the size of a passenger car, has an ‘open mouth’ that is located at 35 centimetres below the water surface used to remove up to 500 kilos of waste from the water. The waste is then processed.

Various trials in the port of Rotterdam

For the next six months, four ‘waste sharks’ will perform a test run for the Port of Rotterdam Authority to clean up litter in the Rotterdam docks. The Aquadrone can also be encountered live in the port. The drone inspects concrete structures for an oil terminal and visualises them in 3D. This is done at places where it is too difficult, dangerous or undesirable to use manned solutions. This includes under jetties, bridges and other structures.

See the drones in action during the World Port Days

Would you like to see the drones in action for yourself? This is possible during the World Port Days on 2, 3, and 4 September 2016. This year’s theme is ‘The Smartest Port’, which obviously should include the water drones. A ‘done port’ has been set up especially for the unmanned boats. On Saturday starting at 10.00 a.m., a unique experimental location for water drones will be available in the Dokhaven of RDM Rotterdam, which will be closed off for regular shipping. The drones of RDM Centre of Expertise, Rijkswaterstaat and Genuin Engineering will also participate.

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