In order to manage the increasing number of flying movements with drones over the Rotterdam port area, Port of Rotterdam Authority starts a two-year pilot job for policy and traffic control in the low airspace. To this end, market parties are invited to come up with propositions for an Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system, as a prelude to the roll-out of U-space.


The port area is presently only accessible to drone operators in the Specific category. In the future, it will become the guideline instead of the exception that a number of drone flights occur in the exact same airspace at the same time. And with the arrival of the first vertiports in 2024, the variety of flight motions at low elevations above the port area will increase further. Not just for guidance and evaluations, however likewise for the transportation of freight and travelers in the long term.

Presently, drone flying is managed at European and nationwide level. Port Authority Rotterdam wish to see the Port Master Division, now only accountable for handling ship traffic, likewise gain control over low airspace at local level. This is in view of the expected growth in the variety of drone flights above the port location.


To guarantee security and prevent trauma helis and cops helicopters from being hindered, the Port Authority has released a tender for companies that offer Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) systems. Through such a UTM system, all drone traffic can be managed. Operators can send flight strategies and demand information by means of the system. The system also monitors all approved and unapproved flights.

Ingrid Römers, consultant Port of Rotterdam Authority:”It is very important to be well prepared for a future in which drones in the air, just like ships in the water, are increasingly signing up with the port.”Prelude to U-space The introduction of UTM is a prelude to the roll-out of U-space over the Rotterdam port location. As a result, the Rotterdam port authority follows the example of Port of Antwerp, which took on a collaborating role in the field of drone flights in 2015 in collaboration with Unifly. Römers:”We may have a different approach than Antwerp, however it will be intriguing to put both side by side.”

Due to the fact that U-space is far from taken shape, there is a risk that the system will come to its own and that operators running in several locations end up facing a patchwork of various portals and practices. Römers: “Such a patchwork blanket might not be preventable, but the concern is whether that will really be so bothersome for operators. In any case, we don’t wish to see that as a challenge now to not begin in advance.”


The trial starts mid-2022 for a period of 2 years. In addition to the business and firms involved in drone flights, the Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) and the ministries of Defence and Infrastructure & Water Management are also included. The aim of the model is to get an informed impression of the type and quantity of work involved in drones airspace management, the costs involved and who can finest perform the work.

In a white paper, the port authority further exposes its vision of the ‘Rotterdam model U-Space Airspace’. Ingrid Römers will give a discussion on the strategies of the port authority at the NL Drone Day throughout the Amsterdam Drone Week on 31 March.

(cover picture: Maarten Slooves)