Innovation Rewarded

Innovation Rewarded

HHLA Sky’s Award-winning, Massively Scalable Drone System

The HHLA Sky drone, safeguarding the port of Hamburg.

Reusable rockets, gecko-like adhesives, sensible boots—the judges of the 2021 German Innovation Awards didn’t lack for decisions. In the top, although, the Port of Hamburg’s new massively scalable built-in drone administration system was one in every of a handful of entries within the start-up class that caught their eye, rising because the winner.

Developed by HHLA Sky, a subsidiary of Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG, the logistics firm that manages Europe’s second-largest port, the built-in resolution can function a fleet of greater than 100 drones concurrently from a single command heart, both in shared air area or in places anyplace on the planet. “Software-wise, there’s principally no limitation. I’m all the time saying over 100 as a result of no one will consider me if say 1,000,” quipped CEO Matthias Gronstedt.

Monitoring an built-in resolution for a number of drones.

A homegrown resolution

The system was initially conceived to deal with a requirement for built-in drone operations to be embedded into day-to-day actions within the Port of Hamburg,” Operations Manager Tom Wiernikowski stated.

HHLA Sky engineers regarded first for an on-the-shelf resolution that might serve many communications and monitoring wants within the superior and extremely automated 28.5 square-mile facility. But they couldn’t discover one which offered the diploma of scale, flexibility and safety the port required.

“Current off-the-shelf drone options solely solved a part of the puzzle of what we had been attempting to attain,” Wiernikowskiexplained. “They weren’t fully appropriate for scaled industrial operations, particularly the place they had been required to combine into our present industrial processes, protocols and workflows.”

From the six-rotor plane with redundant engines to safe however high-speed management software program, growth of the bespoke drone system took a number of years. “We’ve designed it from the bottom up,” Wiernikowski stated.

Although HHLA Sky’s drones are designed to share the identical airspace, they are often flown concurrently at completely different places, trackable by quick, direct, encrypted video transmission to distant pilots in a 300-millisecond point-to-point broadcast or an 800-millisecond multicast.

Infrastructure inspection, perimeter safety, chemical pattern assortment and paperwork supply rank among the many use potentialities. Individual plane can deal with a payload of as much as 3.5 kilograms, which makes them adaptable for a lot of makes use of. “That could possibly be thermal cameras. That could possibly be radiation detectors. That could possibly be chemical evaluation. It could possibly be simply simple RGB optical and video cameras, relying on what’s required,” Wiernikowski stated.

Despite the automated options, the system is just not designed to function at full autonomy. “Of course, we will do all types of computerized issues, however as a part of our system, there’s an operator who is ready to intervene at any time when wanted,” stated Thorsten Indra, venture developer.

Currently, the system operates not solely within the Port of Hamburg however in three different HHLA ports—Tallinn (Estonia), Odessa (Ukraine) and Trieste (Italy). HHLA Sky is starting to market the expertise to different industries as nicely.

Designed for the large leagues

The HHLA system’s unique goal of port administration and infrastructure inspection makes it appropriate for a lot of completely different sorts of business prospects, Indra said. “We have obstacles,  we have now completely different safety wants. We are principally bordering the town; we’re very close to an airport, so all the security protocols needed to be geared to a really demanding setting,” he stated.

The system is designed to be a near-turnkey resolution. “Ninety % of it’s all engineered, constructed, and able to go,” Wiernikowski stated. Once HHLA Sky engineers work with the shopper to customise the ultimate 10% and the shopper’s workers obtain 10 days of coaching, the system ought to be operational.

Having the management desk, the management heart, the plane and the payload capabilities all in-house offers HHLA Sky full management over its drone system. CEO Gronstedt defined this benefit for customers. “That means we have now full management over the expertise, which means it’s not going to turn into redundant and we will assist it and repair it. Customers don’t need to have a puzzle of 4 and 5, six completely different sorts of drones and within the background, 4 to 5 completely different software program methods.”

Photos courtesy of HHLA Sky.