In Depth: The Future is Unmanned

Several organisations, like port authorities, police and environmental organisations, monitor the activities of vessels. The reasons are numerous: border control, traffic management, environmental control, drugs control, help during conflicts and disasters, just to name a few. Up til now, this was done by manned aircrafts, but that might change in the years to come with the results of the 3i Project.

Integrated Coastal Zone Management via Increased Situational Awareness through Innovations on Unmanned Aircraft Systems, short 3i Project, is an international cooperation between the Netherlands, France, Belgium and the UK to research the possibility of using Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAVs) in an maritime environment, with the focus on the North Sea and the channel between England and France. This project is financed by the Interreg VI A 2Sea programme of the EU, which is aimed at the cooperation between border regions with a maritime focus. On 21 June, the official kick off meeting took place in Woensdrecht, the Netherlands. Woensdrecht is a well-known aviation town, with the military aviation base and several aviation maintenance hubs nearby.

Goals

The goals of the project, which will run until 2014, are to accelerate the European knowledge about UAVs, to gain practical knowledge on UAV operations for end users, to develop UAV business opportunities for European small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and to create an open platform for research and for open communication. UAVs are seen as a tool for the military, but according to Stefan van Seters of REWIN, one of the project partners and coordinator of the project, they are also applicable to commercial use.

Next to REWIN, the Dutch partners in the project are Port of Rotterdam, Police Rotterdam- Rijnmond region, Technical University of Delft, ROC Brabant and Digital & Media Solutions. Supporting partners are the municipality of Woensdrecht, Business Park Aviolanda and the Dutch Police. The international partners include the Police of Kent, University of Southampton, Technopôle Brest-Iroise, ENSTA Bretagne, DEEV Interaction and Telecom Bretagne.

The advantages of the UAVs are that monitoring will become a lot easier, as the UAV is commanded from a small van, where a person uses a tablet to direct the UAV. It saves a lot of time, as the pilot does not need to inform the ground troops of its whereabouts. Of course, operational costs of a UAV are much lower than of a manned aircraft. According to Bart Remes from Technical University of Delft, the first step for the partners and end users to take now is to think of scenarios for the UVAs, for example for what purposes the UAV should be used, so Technical University of Delft can start developing a prototype.

Follow-up

Maritime by Holland Magazine will follow the 3i Project closely and give regular updates about the future developments.

Gail van den Hanenberg

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