Drone delivers package to world’s largest ship Pioneering Spirit

A Dutch first has taken place in the port of Rotterdam: the aerial delivery by drone of a parts consignment to Allseas’ Pioneering Spirit. The biggest vessel in the world is currently moored at Alexiahaven in preparation of upcoming offshore activities.

This pilot project, which was set up by Dutch Drone Delta, Allseas and the Port of Rotterdam Authority, was intended to determine whether and how drone deliveries could increase transport efficiency in the port of Rotterdam. The airspace over the port area will be safely managed under the slogan “Rotterdam, the safest port to fly”.

The drone delivery took place 22 May and was the first such delivery to a vessel in the Netherlands. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Works is also involved in the project to determine how laws and regulations need to be amended to allow the use of drones.

Drone evolution

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry is growing and this technology can have a major impact on traffic and transport. New European regulations have cleared the way for new applications. Ultimately, this may even include autonomous unmanned freight and passenger transport. To this end, the next few years will be devoted to the phased preparation of airspace and drone technology.

The recent delivery constitutes a major first step in this process, since it involved the delivery of an actual package following a long-distance flight by the UAV. While in this case, the delivery was still directly monitored by human observers, in the near future, it will be handled entirely beyond the pilot’s physical line of sight.

Alternative to helicopter deliveries

‘As a provider of technical services to the offshore industry, we are continuously pushing the existing technical boundaries. Pioneering Spirit is the example,’ says Allseas PR manager Jeroen Hagelstein. ‘With this pilot, we want to test whether drones could be an effective means to quickly and efficiently deliver materials to our vessels. Helicopters, for example, are not always available on every location. Drone delivery can be of added value when we are in urgent need of parts which we can’t repair ourselves – for example network switches or computer chips.’

But drones offer more uses in the port area. Stephan van Vuren, one of the people behind the Dutch Drone Delta initiative: ‘Incident prevention and control, for instance; or water pollution; firefighting; monitoring port operations or damage. Other examples include everything from systems and bridge inspections, construction and maintenance of infrastructure, and deliveries to ships and oil rigs, to the rapid medical transport of blood and human organs.’

‘In the longer term, we may even be seeing heavy freight deliveries and passenger transport. This pilot project in the port of Rotterdam has allowed us to directly demonstrate the added value of drone technology in a complex environment,’ adds Van Vuren.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.