Thursday 14th of February the Connekt Talk: ‘Drones’ was organised. Several of our members and a few guest speakers provided the audience with the latest developments on unmanned aircrafts in practice.

Since summer 2018 Connekt is exploring the topic of drones. An increasing amount of members either already see the value of the use of unmanned aircrafts, or are discovering what this trend might mean for their businesses. Due to these new activities, Connekt is now happy to welcome several new members: Airhub, Talaria, UMCG, Autonoom Vervoer Nederland. Furthermore Connekt started a series of Round Table meetings. The first Round Table meeting about drones was organised during the Amsterdam Drone Week, 27th of November. A second Round Table meeting was held upfront to the Connekt Talk.

Changing the rules
After a warm welcome of Connekt’s chairman Nico Anten our first speaker Stephan van Vuren (Airhub) took us into the world of the EU legislation. These new legislations will actually open up possiblities for operating unmanned aircrafts in Europe, as long as several safety and planning requirements are met by the operator. This has implications for Dutch governance of unmanned aircrafts. Inspectie Leefomgeving & Transport (‘The Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate’) anticipates these new legislations, by preparing the issue of permits for enquiries to fly with an unmanned aircraft if they meet the safety requirements of these legislations. Next to that the Dutch airspace has to be prepared and redesign: they want to ‘reserve’ airspace for new aircrafts and aerial use in the near future.

From pilot possibilities to real-life implementations
Aad van den Burg of Rijkswaterstaat (‘Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management’) named multiple useful implementations of drones already in use in their operations of, for instance, surveillance and critical fast determination of the scope of damage in a crisis area. A true inspiration for how drones can be implemented in logistics, rather than only in transferring goods. It shows how drones could be implemented in daily other operations in order carry them out more safely, cost effectively and CO2 neutral.

The next presenter, Frans Hamstra of Autonoom Vervoer Noord Nederland (‘Autonomous Transport of North Netherlands’), told about the collaboration on autonomous transport of the nordic provinces of the Netherlands. This region already has multiple implementations of autonomous vehicles on the road and now aims to explore how autonomous transport in the air can enhance new possibilities. To achieve this, they have set up a test lab and corridor starting from their airport in Eelde. They created a safe and controlled area (not too densely populated and accessibility to 5G network) to test the newest technologies.

Drones in smart logistics
Hans Heerkens, chairman of Platform Unmanned Cargo Aircraft (PUCA), then surprised the audience with their ambition and vision of deploying drones for cargo bulks. Richard Visser of Rhenus Air & Ocean works in close collaboration with PUCA as he believes there is a fruitful future in implementing unmanned aircrafts in their logistical operations.

At last we were happy to welcome Felix Lee from EHang as a surprise guest speaker, who told us about EHang’s operations with drones in China and their ambition to provide drone services in Europe.

With so many concrete examples of anticipated opportunities for unmanned aircrafts, it was good to realize that there are actually many drones already operating in the Netherlands. This Connekt Talk was meant to inspire many Connekt members active, or not yet active, in this drone community. Connekt will start collecting concrete usecases and will facilitate the needed collaborations to realize those usecases in the near future.