The Port of Durban, South Africa, starts using drones for surveillance, monitoring and certain operations in the port. Details of a three-month trial programme were communicated at the African Ports Evolution conference in Durban on October, 18th.
The solution can be used in a number of ways including inspecting infrastructure and the condition of the sea bed, which can be done safely without interrupting port operations. Also, it can assist in collecting information on port traffic.
Ristha Joga, information, management and services manager at Transnet National Ports Authority, said: “It provides us a real-time view of the operations, terminals, the artery roads leading into the port environment. We used it to look at the traffic congestion at the Bayhead Road area. We also used it to conduct a package drop-off to a vessel and perform hull inspections.”
In the future, they may even be used to pilot ships into port, reducing the need to send a pilot to the vessel.
“A port like Durban will have two aerial drones and three aquatic drones. Aquatic drones will be able to give us water quality at a point in time,” says Ristha Joga.
She stressed that aquatic drones would not replace personnel, but allow work to be done in areas which are unsafe for people. They also generate a better output of data, she said. Drones could actually create more jobs because the port did not have enough drone pilots.
Other technologies being tested for use in the port included satellite tracking and mobile applications. These plans are parallel to the introduction of the Smart People’s Port concept.