The capabilities and availability of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are developing quickly and they now present serious safety concerns for critical national infrastructure. They are increasingly being used for malicious purposes, such as remote aerial hacking, surveillance, aerial attack or invading privacy. Port of Amsterdam, Western Europe’s fourth largest port, had recognised the increasing threat of drones to the safety of their facility and were eager to gain real-time understanding of the scale of drone incursion, both legally and illegally.
In December 2018, Port of Amsterdam commenced a 26 day trial of the Martek Anti Drone System (M.A.D.S) to successfully monitor drone use in the port area.
Drone use at the port of Amsterdam is a recognised activity, but prior to the trial, it wasn’t clear what type of activity was being undertaken, whether that be for beneficial or malicious purposes. The port authorities recognise that drones have a useful role to play in a wide range of legitimate port activities such as maintenance inspections, emergencies, measuring environmental impact and determining the volume of goods to facilitate safe handling. Equally, the nature of a port is such that it can be very vulnerable to illegal drone activity. The trialling of M.A.D.S was therefore seen as an excellent opportunity to obtain quantifiable information regarding the scale and scope of drone activity, as well as learn more about the M.A.D.S system.
“To guarantee the safety of the port, we need to be in control. The first step to being in control is having insight in to how many drones are actually flying in our port area.” Joost Zuidema, Project and Innovations Manager for Port of Amsterdam.
Martek CUAS installed the M.A.D.S system with a view to monitor the whole port area for a total of 26 days, between 6th and 31st December 2018. Following an initial consultation, it was decided that two M.A.D.S sensors were required to provide adequate coverage, with one being installed in the Capriweg area of the port and the other situated in the Prodock area. In order to provide the most effective real-time detection, the M.A.D.S sensors installed in the port were designed to pick up 99% of drone activity, with the ability to detect drones controlled by radio as well as those controlled through Wi-Fi. The M.A.D.S system operated continuously during the trial period, working alongside existing security protocols to provide real-time drone identification information to port officials.
For the first time ever, Port of Amsterdam was able to successfully identify and track drones operating in and around the port in real-time. Despite the weather during the trial period being unappealing for drone flying, the results were significant. During the 26 day period, over 50 drones were identified within one kilometre of the M.A.D.S sensors. Data provided to port authorities included real-time drone GPS position, flight path and location of the controller to enable successful mitigation once malicious activity was identified.
Next Steps for Port of Amsterdam
The use of M.A.D.S provided a more accurate understanding of the scale of drone activity over the port, as well as a better understanding of the capability of the M.A.D.S drone detection system. Following the statistics gathered during the trial, it was felt that there was now enough information to begin to move forward in working out how best to manage drone activity in the future. Given the potential increase in drone use at a range of sensitive locations, these promising trial results are attracting international interest in the potential of the M.A.D.S technology.
“The trial was a success for Port of Amsterdam. The technology was quite new for us and has also shown us that in fact there are quite a lot of drone flights within our port, which would have previously gone unidentified. This trial has provided enough data for us to further investigate what we need to do to manage drone flights within our port. A major part of the puzzle is identifying when drones fly in our port and M.A.D.S can help achieve that.” Said Joost at the conclusion of the trial.