Drones, high-tech puzzles for advanced users

22 maart 2019 | Professional drones really belong to the high-tech domain.

This was the conclusion of the 25 high-tech engineers who took part in a master class organized at Neopost Technologies in Drachten on Thursday March 21. Satellite navigation, camera surveillance, big data, combined with laws and regulations is a high-tech puzzle for experts.

One quick question to people in the audience revealed that 80 percent of the engineers were also drone pilots. Drones are a real toy for the boys. The master class not only drew engineers from companies that are part of ICD but also attracted engineers from other companies. The clear mini lecture by Hein Zelle of Netherlands Aerospace Center NLR was very popular. He explained the essential role of a gigantic network of satellites 20,000 kilometers above the face of the earth in daily communication, navigation and information distribution on earth. He also explained how all kinds of physical phenomena could affect accurate location determination.


If you speak about drones, you must take into account aviation and aviation rules. Drones may be fun and intelligent, but the fact that they operate in the same space as planes causes regulators headaches. This does not deter Judith van Bruggen. She also works at the Netherlands Aerospace Center NLR and knows all about the U-space regulations. She explained how a number of services and procedures ensure that large numbers of drones can fly around safely. That these services and procedures are necessary was recently show by the example of an amateur drone pilot who managed to disrupt flights to and from Heathrow airport in London for days. New rules can prevent such problems in the future. This is essential, as drones will increasingly take over the role of vehicles in everyday economy and society.

Ambulance drone

Healthcare is a case in point. Jan Westera of drone specialist Vliegend.nl in Dokkum showed a special drone that takes medication from Lauwersoog to Schiermonnikoog and returns with blood samples. This is important for the doctor on the island. Westera explained that is was a challenge to make a drone fly 7 kilometers across the Wadden Sea, while being out-of-sight during part of the crossing. The drone must be capable of withstanding strong winds, must be fitted with sustainable battery management and excellent route optimization, and it must be capable of landing immediately behind the dike without a direct command signal, which is a true high-tech puzzle for enthusiasts. When this puzzle is solved, this may lead to timely health care interventions on islands and in the countryside. Within 5 minutes, a drone can fly a life-saving drug from Lauwersoog to Schiermonnikoog.

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