Drone use by ports to increase in 2020

Posted on

Before the advent of drones, helicopters were the only choice for aerial tasks that involved remaining midair stationery or called for low-flying versatility that aircraft did not provide. Yet helicopter use has also resulted in deadly accidents such as a 2017 Port of Los Angeles crash that killed both the pilot and a photographer taking pictures of cruise ships.
The Los Angeles Port Police recently gave a presentation to the Los Angeles Harbor Department in response to the incident and technological innovation in general, extolling the advantages of drones in mapping and photography assignments which would otherwise involve a helicopter with a human pilot.

The meeting held on December 19, 2019, was the final phase in an ongoing program to deploy the drones. The Port Police and Harbor Department have seven such drones already and have been performing exercises of preparation.

Technology use by ports increase

Drone use is only part of a broader image of the technological bonanza taking place right now in ports across the globe, with emerging innovations and integrations driven by the growth of globalization and eCommerce. The technologies range from blockchain-enabled record-keeping to automated processes that the Internet of Things ( IoT) makes possible. But the drones have a particularly immediate and potent effect.
The U.S. Coast Guard has now started to deploy drones to monitor hard-to-access navigation signs, along with equipping its cutters with intercept drones to help slow down the flow of drugs into the United States. Another such drone, the ScanEagle, has already helped intercept nearly 1,700 kilograms of $55 million worth of contraband and has led to the capture of 10 primary drug dealers.

In addition to assignments for mapping/photography and security and surveillance, port drones would be useful in search-and-rescue missions that could imperil the human crew. Port authorities have also considered their use to thwart suicide attempts by providing telephones to individuals who are about to leap from a bridge into the waters below, which, unfortunately, widespread port tragedy.

Another valuable drone service would be the delivery of small, timely items that are required on board vessels anchored in the port. These drone drops are already in use in Singapore, which is using Airbus-made Skyways drones to deliver goods to nearby ships. Although these drone drops are only limited to 4 kilograms of material within a few kilometres, they increase shore-to-ship deliveries up to six times and minimize costs by as much as 90% – thus reducing the risks of human-manned launch-boat shipments.

Sniffing out violators of IMO 2020

But with the start of IMO 2020—the new low-sulfur fuel mandate that began on January 1 — another area where port drones are now to be used is to try to sniff out environmental violators. Such sniffer-drones would likely prove the most effective way to implement ever tighter shipping-based pollution-focused requirements. The sniffer-drones do their job by flying through a ship’s smoke plume and measuring how much sulfur there is in the fuel in a scan that can take up to two minutes.

In Denmark, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Norway, port authorities have already tested drones flying up to 10 miles to the sea to capture criminals. For tens of thousands of container ships and tankers coming and going these drones may need to be boarded for manual inspection to alert port authorities to those ships. Drone findings are not admissible in court, but they may lead to the collection of samples of fuel that they are. Violators may be suspended in specific locations like Singapore for up to two years, under prosecution for breaching IMO regulations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *