Home News Innovation Belgian Police zone CARMA comes up with innovative drone concept in Port of Limburg

Belgian Police zone CARMA comes up with innovative drone concept in Port of Limburg

Port of Limburg will take over container traffic via the Albert Canal from Haven Genk as of January 2025. In addition to a container terminal with a capacity of 353,000 TEU, Port of Limburg will also offer a wide range of services and solutions for container traffic. This new port offers economic advantages that criminal elements may seek to exploit as well. Local partners, including the companies involved, the city government, the Governor’s Office, the Prosecutor’s Office, Customs, and both Local and Federal Police, have been working for some time to identify security risks and develop both preventive and reactive measures. One of the measures being explored by police zone: CARMA is the use of an innovative drone concept.

Economic, environmental and community benefits

The introduction of this new port heralds a host of advantages, spanning both economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. Positioned strategically, the Port of Limburg is poised to act as a bustling hub facilitating seamless container transportation between key ports like Antwerp and Rotterdam. Notably, the establishment of the port is set to catalyze job creation, further boosting local economies. In contrast to traditional modes of transportation such as trucks or trains, inland navigation emerges as a greener alternative, reducing carbon emissions and environmental impact. Additionally, the port’s sophisticated infrastructure enables the secure transit of perishable goods and vital medical supplies, thanks to meticulously controlled temperature flows.

Challenges and safety measures

While the new port undoubtedly brings numerous benefits, it also presents some challenges, including potential impacts on traffic, disturbances, and crime. Wim Dries, Mayor of Genk, acknowledges these concerns, emphasizing collaborative efforts with partners to ensure the safety of container traffic in and around the Port of Limburg. Traditionally, ports are susceptible to drug smuggling, and the priority remains to maintain a secure and drug-free environment. Drawing from the successful anti-drug policies implemented in the port of Antwerp, there’s a recognition that effective strategies exist. However, given the evolving nature of drug trafficking, the police unit CARMA is actively seeking innovative, tailored solutions to address these challenges.

Implementation of a ‘drone in a box’

As part of their innovative approach, the police zone CARMA, known for its pioneering use of drones in law enforcement, is initiating a pilot project aimed at enhancing security within the port and its vicinity. Over the course of six months, the force will invest in leasing a “drone in a box,” which will be stationed permanently on a nearby rooftop. This drone, controlled remotely and out of direct sight of the pilot, will provide continuous surveillance of the area. Throughout the testing phase, the police force will refine operational procedures and methods, with the ultimate goal of implementing the system upon the Port of Limburg’s opening.

Drone patrol for increased surveillance

The “drone in a box” will conduct regular patrols of the area without the need for physical presence of police personnel. Skilled drone pilots from the police will operate the drone remotely from the commissariat in Genk. In addition, the drone can swiftly respond to reports of suspicious activity within the port, serving as an extra set of virtual police eyes. By providing real-time imagery, the drone enables continuous monitoring of suspicious behavior even before a physical team arrives on site. Following a thorough risk assessment, ground teams can be precisely directed to the suspect’s location using live drone footage. This drone patrol initiative marks a pioneering achievement for police CARMA, representing a first within continental Europe.

Evaluation and dedication

Over the course of these six months, the police will rigorously test the pilot project, thoroughly assessing both its technical functionality and operational benefits. Geert Verheyen, Chief of Police zone CARMA, expressed confidence in the concept’s effectiveness and its potential added value. He emphasized the importance of a comprehensive evaluation to gain deeper insights into the project. Verheyen reaffirmed their commitment to leveraging all available resources to bolster port security, underscoring their ongoing pursuit of efficient and innovative approaches.

Ultimate vision of the future

If the “drone in a box” receives positive evaluation, there’s potential for its implementation across the entire police zone. Furthermore, once legislation is in place, the integration of AI could be explored. This long-term vision could pave the way for autonomous drone patrols capable of identifying suspicious activity independently.



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