Technology Base in Enschede is testing ground for drone technologies

Drones; we see them more and more in our skies. Nowadays, it is no longer just for making videos and photos. They can be the solution for various issues in the field of public safety, freight logistics and inspection and maintenance, something that Martijn Mennen from Space53 knows all about. The drone ecosystem is involved in many innovations in this area.

In short

  • Many opportunities in high-tech Twente in developing drones as a solution to various government challenges

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Mennen is programme manager at the Enschede ecosystem. "We are a booster in the use of drones and drone applications in this region and beyond. Moreover, we are a test centre and a field lab. At the Technology Base, which includes Twente Airport, we have a controlled environment to develop and test innovative unmanned systems. Both on the ground and in the air," he explains. "With us, government departments, knowledge institutions and commercial companies can jointly test new technology and put it into practice. Over the past five years, we have set up several projects together. For example, the sniffer drone to detect hazardous substances, a project aimed at the safe integration of urban air mobility (AMU-LED) and drones to map and fight fires. We know that these safety & security drones (can) have a lot of impact on society and, with major boosters and knowledge partners like Veiligheidsregio Twente, Saxion University of Applied Sciences and University of Twente, our focus is on these types of unmanned systems."  

Drone with arm

He himself finds the development of making drones do things very interesting. "At the moment, they mainly fly with cameras and sensors, but letting a drone grab or move something is interesting and useful. The RAAK-PRO project Mars4Earth is a great example of this. This drone with an arm can move and touch things. This in turn opens doors to new applications, such as inspection and maintenance at height."

Another great example, Mennen thinks, is 'Advanced air mobility'. Here, drones are used to intervene faster than by other means. "That can make society safer. In case of a fire or an accident a drone can be at the scene faster and can bring an AED, extinguish incipient fires, measure hazardous substances or track someone down. And think of a larger drone flying in additional firefighting equipment or people," he enthuses.

In short, there are plenty of growth opportunities in the drone field. But in order to do so, much still needs to be done. "I think the Netherlands can do more in the field of drone development and deployment. The energy and will is there among both end-users, such as governments and industry. For this, we need to test the technology, but also the social, economic, legal and ethical aspects. There are currently still too many restrictions for this, in the form of regulations and permits, for example. It would be great if there were more opportunities to safely integrate drones into everyday airspace. Then, when necessary, they can be used immediately and we don't have to wait for regulations to be amended or for the right permit. So making the technology work is quite a challenge."

Hightech Twente

He says the Twente region, within which knowledge institutions, government bodies and innovative companies work together, is doing well in this area. "The high-tech (manufacturing) industry can play a role in development and production. Especially in the field of design, sensors and applications. In Twente, there is plenty of knowledge in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Twente, Saxion University of Applied Sciences and ROC of Twente. The Veiligheidsregio Twente has a major pioneering role when it comes to the use of drones in firefighting, certainly within the Netherlands. Besides the municipality of Enschede, other municipalities such as Waterschap Vechtstromen and Omgevingsdienst Twente are already actively using drones. And don't forget the innovative companies like our participants Robor Electronics, SpectroAG and Demcon."

Safety & security

The industry is in full swing and we are going to see more and more drones in the skies, according to Mennen. "There are definitely going to be more drones flying. Some of them will not even be noticed once we get used to them. It is up to us to show that unmanned systems like drones can be a (sustainable) solution for many things. I am not talking about delivering meals, but about drone technology that increases our safety. Together with Twente companies, researchers and students, the regional government and end users, we are making great strides in the further development of these types of unmanned systems. Emergency workers need these extra eyes, noses and even hands in the sky. This requires long-term work and good cooperation."

Date: 12 October 2022 |

Source of tekst: Space53 |

Author: Marloes Neeskens

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