Dutch customs are significantly utilizing drones to supervise port locations and seaside regions. This is not only about monitoring to prevent drug smuggling, but likewise about assistance with arrests. Today, drones are mainly utilized in the port area of Rotterdam, however in the future this will likewise happen more and more often nationwide.

Customs Droneteam

Customizeds are progressively dealing with difficulties such as drug smuggling and other criminal offense. However, it is challenging to monitor the huge container terminals, port areas and commercial parks in the coastal regions. The port of Rotterdam alone covers an area of 12,600 hectares. Fixed cameras only cover a small part of these locations.

Because of that, customizeds are progressively using drones. A Customs Drone Team has actually even been established. The idea for that happened four years earlier. The customs management group soon gave the green light. The cart was drawn by Darko Brodic, member of the Customs Innovation Coordination Group, part Robotization. Brodic is now co-managing the drone team.

There was a great deal of attention when establishing their own drone group. Brodic: “That was a multidisciplinary technique, due to the fact that you take a lot of steps from design stage to implementation. For example, you need to pick and train pilots, go through a tender procedure for the drones, draw up your own operational handbook … And coordinate a lot with the Environment & & Transport Inspectorate, due to the fact that you will be in the airspace as an airline operator and for that reason on all kinds of rules should comply. For that, you even have to set up an aviation company. Luckily, a lot of people inside and outside the company assisted with that.”

Drone with zoom and infrared electronic camera The group utilizes the latest drones, consisting of the DJI M300 RTK. It can be used both in daytime and in the dark, thanks to the Zenmuse H20T thermal video camera.

The drone is also geared up with an LED floodlight, to be able to illuminate a location on the ground during the night. Brodic:”We can see well both in the evening and during the day, and see– as anticipated– more than before. Thanks to the good zoom function, we are able to likewise develop razor-sharp images from a far away. Likewise crucial: you are far away yourself, so practically invisible. This is not just helpful when you are surveilling, however just as well as you do reconnaissance work, for example. Our team is also in some cases used in an arrest by our colleagues of the Special Assistance Team.”

Released day-to-day

The drone team is releasing the drones almost daily nowadays. Airsurveillance is especially efficient in the battle against so-called uthals, individuals who extract drugs from containers. In the future, it is likewise imaginable that drug transports are kept an eye on by drone at sea, or for tracking suspicious goods overland.

All recordings are processed in accordance with the personal privacy legislation (GDPR). “Everything that is’ compliant ‘will be removed again, recordings showing suspicious cases or a’ red act ‘are kept for any proof,” discusses Brodic. “If onlooker deals with or silhouettes happen to be caught, they will be blushed or otherwise made indistinguishable. The rights and privacy of residents are for that reason ensured.”


Within Customs Rotterdam Haven, even more staff members are being trained as pilots, while colleagues will likewise get their license in each of the other maritime regions– Groningen, Amsterdam and Breda–. “So there, too, we are dealing with forming drone teams,” states Darko. “And we are thinking about perhaps setting up these systems all over the country. After all, the bird’s eye view can be of added worth for customs work all over.”

Custom-mades is not the only party to work on drones for security. Port of Rotterdam Authority is also thinking about the possibility of monitoring the port location from the air. At the end of 2021, a series of experiments was made with a fixed-wing drone from Avy, which can travel longer distances at high speed. In the future, they will be stationed in drone boxes that can be controlled from another location.

(sources: Customs Insight, Rijnmond– cover picture: Customs)