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Petrochemical analysis samples now transported by drone to laboratory

Published by , Editorial Assistant
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

SGS, a global leader in testing, inspection, and certification, has celebrated the official launch of its drone transport service in the Port of Antwerp. SGS now offers drone transport to swiftly and safely convey petrochemical analysis samples to the laboratory.

The company collaborates with ADLC, A Drone Logistics Company, for this initiative. BASF Antwerpen NV, constantly striving to improve its production and service processes, facilitated this sustainable innovation feat. This marks an international first: the transport of petrochemical analysis samples by an autonomously flying drone has never before been executed in Europe.

Annually, SGS analyses approximately 6000 petrochemical analysis samples for BASF Antwerpen and more than 60 000 samples for other companies in the Port of Antwerp. SGS, drone operator ADLC, and BASF Antwerpen collaborated on the SAMPLIFLY project to safely and efficiently transport these samples using a BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) computer-controlled autonomous drone. The drone is designed to fly greater distances (up to 50 km) carrying a payload of 15 kg. Thanks to this, SGS can reduce the transport time of analysis samples by up to six times. This not only increases the efficiency of operations for both BASF Antwerpen and SGS, but also reduces the environmental impact for both parties. Traditionally, the transport of analysis samples is carried out by road. The use of drones offers a sustainable solution by reducing CO2 emissions by up to 80%.

In collaboration with SGS, ADLC has created a software platform for requesting transport, planning the flight, remotely starting the drone, and real-time tracking of the flight path. Once a flight is requested via the online order portal by an SGS operator, the drone navigates automatically from the starting location to the destination using onboard computers and navigation systems. The pilot monitors the flight remotely through a control system, allowing for immediate intervention to ensure safety is maintained.

Safety is paramount for SGS, ADLC, and BASF Antwerpen. The implementation of SAMPLIFLY is a first for the European port industry, partly due to the very strict safety requirements that drone transport of petrochemical samples must meet. Logistic drone flights for petrochemical products in an industrial environment are subject to the strictest international aviation regulations. ADLC is the first company in Europe approved for transporting such analysis samples by drone and the first company worldwide to do so within a port in a non-segregated controlled airspace.

The project was realised thanks to the financial support of partners: SGS, Stad Antwerpen, European Space Agency, as well as logistical support and assistance from BASF Antwerpen, Port of Antwerp-Bruges, EuroUSC, Skeydrone, Orange and Unifly.

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