The activity in Unmanned Valley Valkenburg is mounting. More and more businesses, knowledge institutions and government agencies are joining forces to turn the former air base in Katwijk into a testing facility for unmanned systems. Over 20 projects have already started.
One of them concerns students from the Leidse Instrumentenmakers School (LiS) who will develop drones and unmanned technology that will be tested at Unmanned Valley Valkenburg. The school, specialised in precision engineering, is based in Leiden and Unmanned Valley lies just around the corner.
It offers a ‘great opportunity’ for the school, director Dick Harms tells the daily Leidsch Dagblad. “Students can learn the most if the setting resembles a real environment.” One of the first drones the school wants to develop is a fire-fighting drone: machines that can detect fires in an early stage. The teachers are enthusiastic about the collaboration. “I think Unmanned Valley will become very popular”, one of them says.
Several companies have settled in Unmanned Valley Valkenburg, like the RoboValley start-up Aerovinci. Drone Center Valkenburg opened its doors as well. Located nearby major cities like Rotterdam and The Hague, it is a great place to host an event as well. In February, the first edition of DroneClash took place in one of the hangars.
It is expected that the development of Unmanned Valley creates around 2000 jobs and will give the regional economy a boost. “The hotspot of drone companies already based in Valkenburg really takes off”, alderman Jan Klaas van der Bent from the municipality of Katwijk says. To drive the further development, Katwijk and Delft University of Technology have launched the Unmanned Valley Valkenburg Foundation.
The foundation has set up a three-year programme together with 17 partners from government agencies (Rijksvastgoedbedrijf), knowledge institutions (Hogeschool Leiden, Leidse instrumentenmakers School) and the industry. RoboValley is one of the partners as well. Amongst other things, the foundation makes sure the fieldlab meets all safety requirements and the testing of drones doesn’t have a negative impact on the living environment.
Delft University of Technology will use Unmanned Valley for scientific research, the dean of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering Henri Werij says. “It is extremely valuable to have a good testing location for drones nearby. Not only for students and researchers of Delft University of Technology. A great part of the space sector is located in the province of South-Holland as well.” Besides, many related companies and spin-offs are looking for a good place to test. “It is important to test new inventions outside, in all weather conditions.”