Unmanned Valley is going to research the precise route of a beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone corridor from its HQ at former Valkenburg Naval Air Base in Katwijk to the North Sea. It will also look into the conditions in which BVLOS flights can be carried out. The aim is to realize a permanent test environment for companies, knowledge institutions and the Dutch government to gain experience for future business cases, safety and regulations. The effort is supported by drone consultancy and software developer Airhub, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate, regional drinking water supply company Dunea and State Forestry.
Companies in various industries are increasingly interested in the possibilities of BVLOS flying. For example, to inspect offshore wind turbines or powerlines, to transport medical goods, to supply sea-going vessels or to support in emergency situations. In the Netherlands, however, drone flights out of the pilot’s sight are currently being conducted only sporadically. Each flight also requires a special permit. The BVLOS drone corridor aims to boost BVLOS flying in the Netherlands.
“The economic and societal potential of BVLOS applications is enormous. To take full advantage of this, it’s essential that there’s a permanent opportunity for BVLOS test flights in the Netherlands,” says Theo de Vries, program manager at Unmanned Valley. “Unmanned Valley offers a unique opportunity to research, develop and test drones and other sensor-based innovations responsibly. The field lab is situated approximately 3.5 kilometers behind the North Sea coast and outside a controlled traffic region and other no-fly zones.”
“There’s still work that can be done in the field of technology, social acceptance and legislation,” adds Stephan van Vuren, co-founder of Airhub. “When all stakeholders help to eliminate barriers and create a permanent opportunity for testing and demonstrating BVLOS concepts, we take the industry further, support the scalability and public acceptance of innovative applications and prevent innovation from leaking into countries around us, while at the same time making a significant contribution to a robust framework for ‘real BVLOS operations’ in the future.”