Brussels Airport and Citymesh perform the first remote drone flights at the airport

This week Brussels Airport tested whether drones can be deployed at and around the airport. The Citymesh Safety Drone performed a number of safety tasks on the airport grounds.
Published on
April 1, 2021

Brussels Airport, telecom operator Citymesh and airspace manager skeyes tested whether drones can be deployed at and around the airport. The Citymesh Safety Drone flew out this week thanks to the mobile 5G network of Brussels Airport. The drone performed several security tasks on the airport grounds. The team also tested a drone detection system with which the airport can detect unauthorized drones. This pilot project aims to map the use of these drones and further investigate the synergy of manned and unmanned flights.

Focus on innovation

The national airport is almost 12.5 km2 in size. Therefore a drone can be a unique way to swiftly and accurately obtain a detailed overview of current circumstances in an area this large. Brussels Airport called on the Safety Drone to test various safety tasks.

The Safety Drone is controlled from the Citymesh headquarters in Oostkamp and flies over Brussels Airport's private 5G network during BVLOS missions. This is the first time a drone flight in the airport area is done remotely. The network that Citymesh installed in 2019 together with partner Nokia effortlessly bridges large distances at height to and from drones, while HD video images and real-time control remain possible. The pilots can perform a flight anywhere and anytime, as long as there’s a connection to the Brussels Airport network.

Mitch De Geest, CEO Citymesh: “The use of drones is just one of the possibilities that will become a reality thanks to the mobile private network that was rolled out by Citymesh across the airport grounds. ”

During these tests, the focus was on innovation and safety. For example, the first simulation tested how drones can be used by the security services for inspections and surveillance of the airport. You can see it as an extra pair of eyes in the sky. The second simulation focused on an incident involving an aeroplane. A drone can arrive at the scene very quickly and can thus broadcast valuable information to all relevant authorities, even before they arrive. This makes it easier to estimate the size of an incident and to anticipate it more quickly. The latest simulation mapped the wildlife population along the runways.

Arnaud Feist, Brussels Airport CEO: “It is important for our airport to continue to focus on innovation. Although drones and aviation do not initially seem like a good combination, this is a new reality, the possibilities of which must be explored. Today, thanks to our private 5G network, we managed to control a drone remotely, which is an innovative first together with our partners. Drones can be additional tools in our operations, and these tests will give us more insight into the possibilities.”

Safety first

The highest priority at an airport is safety. These tests were preceded by a long preparation. Air traffic was not to be endangered and the regular operation of the airport was disrupted as little as possible. Part of the runways were closed and activities on and around the runways were kept to a minimum. This allowed the drones to always keep a sufficient distance from people, buildings and aircraft. Everything happened in close collaboration between the air traffic controllers in the tower, the Airport Operations Center of Brussels Airport, Citymesh and skeyes.