Photo: Pioneering Spirit; Source: Allseas

World’s largest construction vessel gets first-ever drone delivery

Allseas’ giant Pioneering Spirit offshore construction and decommissioning vessel was the home of the first-ever drone to vessel delivery in the Netherlands last week.

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The Pioneering Spirit is currently moored at Alexiahaven in preparation of upcoming offshore activities. The vessel is 382 meters long and 124 meters wide and hosts an international crew of 570.

The Port of Rotterdam said last Friday that 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.

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The airspace over the port area will be safely managed under the slogan ‘Rotterdam, the safest port to fly’, allowing parties to take optimal advantage of new technologies to make the port safer, smarter and more efficient.

Drone development is in full swing 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 drone.

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While in this case, the delivery was still directly monitored by human observers, soon, it will be handled entirely beyond the pilot’s physical line of sight.

Ingrid Römers, Port Authority adviser, said: “Utilising new technologies allows us to make our port smarter, more streamlined, more efficient and safer.

The results of this pilot project can also serve as input for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management when it drafts the required legislation and regulations. This will enable Rotterdam’s port business community to take optimal advantage of these new developments”.

Stephan van Vuren, one of the people behind the Dutch Drone Delta initiative, stated: “The sky’s the limit when it comes to using drones in the port area. 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.

And 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”.

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According to Allseas PR manager Jeroen Hagelstein, the offshore industry could also benefit from this new delivery option.

As a provider of technical services to the offshore industry, we are continuously pushing the existing technical boundaries. Pioneering Spirit is the example. With this pilot, we want to test whether drones could be an effective means to quickly and efficiently deliver materials to our vessels.

Helicopter, 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”.