An experimental drone flight from Den Helder to Texel in The Netherlands and back was successfully carried out last week. Initially, the flight was supposed to take place two weeks ago, but then low-hanging clouds threw a spanner in the works. The test flight is a prelude to the delivery of offshore installations by drone. As a result, many helicopter flights should become redundant.
Drone flight delivers
The purpose of the test flight was to investigate what is involved in performing a drone flight over a longer distance over the sea. Not only in terms of procedure, but also in terms of security and connectivity. The ultimate goal is to realize an offshore energy drone delivery network in which drones deliver small goods and emergency medication to offshore platforms and seagoing vessels. Helicopters are still being used for this.
Initially, the test flight was scheduled for August 4. However, the drone flight was canceled at the last minute by De Kooy's military air traffic control. Due to low-hanging clouds, visibility was too poor, and people did not dare to take the test flight. Last week, on Thursday, 18 August, the flight was still able to take place.
Drone flight of 10 miles
The drone flight was conducted by DroneQ Robotics in partnership with AirHub, DHSS, and Phoenix Wings. There was also close cooperation with the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate and De Kooy airfield. Due to a flight ban over the Wadden Sea, a detour was made via the Razende Bol, west of Texel. The total flight distance was 15 km. The flight was extensively simulated in advance, during which various emergency scenarios were also practiced.
On board, the drone – a PWOne VTOL from the German firm Phoenix Wings – was a water sample. This was delivered to the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) near Den Hoorn. A bird tag was placed in the cargo hold of the drone for the return flight.
During the flight, the drone was in contact with the pilot via 4G, with a radio connection as a backup. Due to the EVLOS nature of the drone flight, observers were stationed halfway through the route. In the future, these should become superfluous if BVLOS is allowed to be flown.
Preparations for the next offshore drone flight are now in full swing. The intention is to fly to Neptune Energy's offshore production platform L10-A, at a distance of 65 km northwest of Den Helder. The Long Distance Cargo Drone Network is an initiative of the METIP partnership.
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