Port Area Monitoring for Public Safety - Pilot E

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In recent years drones have become more popular and reachable for the larger public. They carry cameras and sensors that collect very valuable information. So within the framework of the AGILE project we have been thinking about concrete applications. In Pilot E we will examine how drones can be deployed in the event of a fire, explosion or other incident and get a good view on the situation even before the emergency services arrive at the spot. Time is crucial in these situations. Other applications around safety and the environment are within reach.

In this pilot the drone is connected to the ubiquitous (2G/3G/4G) cellular network. Project managers, decision makers, rescue teams, maintenance teams, etc would be able to follow live operations and take important decisions in real-time. Thanks to the mobile network, they might even be able to perform actions, wherever they are in the world. This would save a lot of time, money and even lives!

Whenever there is an incident reported to the emergency services, a trigger can be sent to a drone. The drone will fly out to the coordinates of the incident and will check out the site and send a live feed of data and video over 4G with the AGILE gateway towards the emergency services.

The data will be collected by Sky-Watch drones carrying the AGILE gateway, sensors and communication interfaces and will be transmitted in real time via a 3G/4G network using Orange M2M roaming SIM cards.

The data consists of a live video stream and/or an infrared video stream to have a better view of the fire. Next to that the drone will be equipped with several possible sensors: multi gas sensor, geiger, wind speed and direction.

Based on the collected data, real-time heat maps can be created and integrated. This will give the possibility to send SMS-alerts to the population in case of a major disaster.

This information can be integrated in an existing application where real-time information will be provided to the different stakeholders (e.g. fire department). At the moment the fire department receives little information about the incident.


The goals of the pilot are the following:

• Use AGILE gateway to transfer data over the 4G cellular network.

• Collect data from different kind of sensors.

• Send live feedback to a central platform.

Pilot technical work

Project architecturepilotE.png

The data is collected by a drone through the AGILE gateway and applicable network interfaces and is transmitted in real time via a 3G/4G network using Orange M2M SIM cards.

The drone

During the development phase a smaller and sturdier drone was used. This drone is more than powerful enough to lift the AGILE gateway with some sensors for a limited time. During development the different failsafe and edge case safety systems were configured and tested that can result in hard landings. A smaller more cost-efficient drone is more suitable for this. With the AGILE gateway it is easy to integrate it with any drone that is used for the application. If the fire department has its own drones, the AGILE gateway can be plugged in rather easily.

The flight controller

The pixhawk flight controller is developed by 3DR and is commercially used in the 3DR solo drone. The controller is open source and supported by a community. This controller controls the propellers and has built in false safe systems that prevent crashes if a propeller fails. The controller has GPS, barometer, gyrometer, compass and can connect to the drone via the mavlink protocol for communication.


Maker pi pilot E.png

The AGILE maker pi has connection to the cloud with 4G. The pi proxies the Mavlink commands between the flight controller and the server.

RC Radio

With the current Belgian legislation it is not allowed to fly a drone fully autonomous. An automated flight under the supervision of a drone pilot is allowed. During the flight the drone must stay in line of sight with the pilot and the pilot can intervene at any moment and take manual control. The radio controller is wireless connected to a receiver on the drone that is connected with the flight controller. On loss of the radio signal multiple failsafe scenarios can be configured.


The payload of the drone consists of the AGILE gateway and different modular sensors. Between the legs of the drone there is the possibility to add multiple sensor bays with power supply. The connection of the sensors to the AGILE gateway is done via BLE.

The camera is a different kind of module compared to the measurement sensors. The camera needs to be stabilized for the best image quality. The position of the camera can be controlled over the flight controller with a Mavlink command. The video can be captured and streamed over the gateway and server to the platform.

Ground Control Server

The drones are in real-time connection with the server. The server can monitor the drone fleet. Periodic surveillances will be prepared and executed on the command of the server. The client platform will connect to the server to view the data and manually control the drones.

Mission Planner

Mission planner pilot E.png

The initial configuration and development can be done with Mavlink ground stations like Mission Planner. All the flight configuration can be done in the interface. In a later project it is possible to allow third party ground stations or black box systems for authorized pilots.

The Automated platform

A platform with user management and additional security is necessary for safe automated flight is created to allow the users to manage the different flights and see the information in real-time.

On the platform the flight logs, measured data, real time video feed and video logs can be viewed and shared. These insights in situations can be vital for the decision makers in case of events or emergencies.

This platform can be connected to third party solutions for example an API that reserves free airspace for the flight path of the drone. Or data platforms with weather data and other flight critical information. This can be used to make flight decisions or deny a flight request. Multiple organizations are developing such platforms.

Deployment activities

During the development the pilot has been mostly tested indoors to verify the sending of the data over the AGILE gateway and 4G. Due to the changes in the gateway after the pilot was developed it was opted to focus on proving that sensor information could be sent over AGILE, instead of integrating multiple sensors to the drone.

A demonstrator was given on the 4th of December 2018, during this demonstrator the platform was tested in a live environment. This demonstration is recorded on video and will be presented during the review.

Due to the limited scope of this pilot, where the main goal was to prove that AGILE can send data back over 4G a spin-off project has been started to upgrade on the functionalities of the platform and to send sensor data specific to the fire department’s use cases. This project is called 5GUARDS where we intend to send data over 5G. The lessons learned from this pilot will be used as a starting point.

Evaluation tools

We tried to have a full-scale demonstrator for our stakeholders:

• Fire department of Antwerp

• Port of Antwerp

• Civil protection

• Local news papers

However, it has not been considered advantageous for the following reasons:

• The pilot is considered to be too light for a demonstrator of that size. However, thanks to the interaction we had with the different stakeholders we have a good basis for the final platform that will be developed by 5GUARDS.

• There were changes which were made to the development stack of AGILE which made a reintegration of the pilot necessary.

• There are stability issues with the gateway which made it hard to have a full-fledged demonstrator in a production like environment.

We did learn a lot from the experience, both in the technology stack that was used as from the changing stakeholder requirements.

The AGILE project has provided us real insights in how we can use this pilot for our 5GUARDS project and for the IoT understanding within the company.