LVNL launches week-long trial of inspection drones at Schiphol Airport

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LVNL is launching a trial today in which drones equipped with cameras conduct inspections of runways, small buildings and aircraft, and drones carrying lightweight cargo provide transport between various locations at the airport. The trial run will be exploring whether it would be advisable and feasible to use drones for inspections of the asphalt surface and other aspects, in operational processes such as de-icing, and in the supply of replacement parts for aircraft maintenance. Tests will be conducted until 25 June in collaboration with Schiphol, Transavia, The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee and the Dutch Drone Delta. 


Temporary approval for regulated use

Regulated use of drones is possible at Schiphol Airport until 25 June, because the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management has temporarily lifted the ban on regulated use of drones in Schiphol operations. All other bans and obligations remain in effect. The drone flights will be performed by certified drone operators in coordination with LVNL, while maintaining direct contact with the air traffic control tower. All other use of drones by unauthorised parties in proximity to Schiphol remains explicitly prohibited. LVNL has taken the lead in arranging this temporary approval. Like the other partners involved in the project, LVNL saw an opportunity for the trial run as a result of the significant decrease in flight movements compared to normal operations, as a result of the coronavirus. 


“Our plan is to integrate drones into our airspace in the future, so unmanned and manned flights can operate safely side by side. Achieving this goal is a challenge. The airspace is quieter right now, and we see that as a chance to practice operations and test procedures. In this trial run, we can start gaining experience on how to safely fly manned aircraft and drones at Schiphol,” says José Daenen, Director of Operations at LVNL.


The trial run 

Testing will take place at a safe distance from take-off and landing runways and taxiways that are being used for air traffic. Visible testing will take place on the various designated platforms and at various altitudes with different drones. The research results aim to show how the procedures designed for drone use at airports will work in practice, but also how drone flight is perceived in different weather conditions or in close proximity to objects such as buildings.


“Schiphol currently has 85% less air traffic compared to the same period last year. We want to keep asking ourselves which opportunities this situation can offer. Based on this trial run, we aim to draw conclusions about drone use. Could we set up processes more efficiently, sustainably and effectively by using drones? We are pleased with the temporary approval and proud that we and our partners were able to set up this trial run so quickly,” says Hassan Charaf, head of innovation at Royal Schiphol Group.


Safely combining drones and manned flight

Stephan van Vuren, initiator of the Dutch Drone Delta: “Drones and manned aircraft will increasingly share airspace in the future. The most tangible form of this interaction will take place at the airport, which is why this trial run is an important step. From the perspective of the Dutch Drone Delta, we will be looking at procedures and technology in this trial run, but also at support in the social context. How do airport users and employees feel about having drones flying around?”.