Pilot with sailing drone deployed for depth inspection of ships at locks

The Telemetron, a sailing drone that inspects the depth of marginal ships at the locks of IJmuiden, shows that drones can do more than just fly. The aim of this pilot, a collaboration between Port of Amsterdam, the Dutch Customs Office, Seabed and Maritime Robotics, is to gain experience in new technologies in nautical processes.

The pilot has been set up with a view to gaining more information and experience regarding sailing drone technology. This development together with autonomously sailing vessels will have a great impact on future nautical processes. The experiment this week (8 to 13 July) takes the first steps in examining the impact, the potential of the technology for Port of Amsterdam and the steps Port of Amsterdam has to take to prepare for a more structural deployment in the future.


The pilot has been set up in collaboration with Seabed. This system integrator from Amsterdam has brought over the Telemetron of Maritime Robotics in Norway to the Netherlands for the test week. The Telemetron is the research vessel of Maritime Robotics on which they test their hardware and software. Seabed provides the measurement equipment on board the Telemetron.

The Dutch Customs Office is also taking part in this pilot, which wants to scan the hulls of vessels entering the ports.

Passage of marginal ships

For the pilot it was decided to examine the inspection process of marginal ships. Marginal ships are vessels of which the depth is such that they require an exemption for passing through the Noordersluis lock.

The inspection process, which involves a salt measurement at Forteiland and reading out six marks on the hull of the ship, is well-suited for testing drone technology. During the week, the drone will be deployed in various sub-scenarios for the depth inspection process simulation. This will calculate the depth which, in combination with the salt level, determines whether the ship can pass through the Noordersluis lock or has to be made lighter.


The pilot takes place amongst regular shipping traffic. Safety therefore requires particular attention. A permit has been acquired for the pilot. During the test phase the Telemetron will be ‘manned’ whilst the sailing drone will be able to sail (semi-)autonomously. Joost Zuidema, project manager of Port of Amsterdam: ‘Safety is our number one priority, hence our decision to have a boatmaster on board the Telemetron during the test phase. We can test the autonomous sailing in a subsequent phase. Together with the various parties, we want to use this pilot to gain experience and insights into the possibilities, and so be prepared for what the future brings. Foresight is the essence of management.’

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