Start-ups, scale-ups and others active in the field of unmanned technology, autonomous systems and sensors need tailor-made housing and excellent test facilities. Unmanned Valley – the field lab for sensor-based technologies located at the former Valkenburg naval air base, 16 kilometers north of The Hague in the Netherlands – and the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency (‘Rijksvastgoedbedrijf’) have therefore accelerated the second phase of the development of ‘Building 356’. Also a ‘makerspace’ will be realized and the R&D capabilities of the field lab’s indoor drone center will be expanded. These investments contribute to the further development of a fully-fledged ecosystem for drones and other sensor-based innovations in the Netherlands.
“The development of a strong ecosystem is central so that companies can innovate more successfully and thus make more impact, also internationally,” says Theo de Vries, program manager at Unmanned Valley. “We have made great progress last year. We developed new offices, work spaces and facilities. This has translated into a growing community at Unmanned Valley and the number of test operations. It is important to keep momentum and to get all the crucial elements as optimal as possible.”
Collaboration between businesses, educational and knowledge institutions and the government is the key to success, according to De Vries: “I am pleased with the steps we are taking together with the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency, Do IoT Fieldlab, Leiden Instrument Makers School, University of Applied Sciences Leiden and Inholland University of Applied Sciences. By bringing forward the development of additional office space, creating a so-called makerspace and improving the R&D capabilities of our indoor drone center, we increase the attractiveness of Unmanned Valley, stimulate collaboration between businesses and educational and knowledge institutions, and continue to build an important economic cluster.”
Godelieve Bun, director of Leiden Instrument Makers School, the leading Dutch secondary vocational school specialized in precision technology, adds: “As a partner of Unmanned Valley, we offer companies access to specialist precision mechanical facilities. For over 130 years our students and teachers have been developing the latest technical solutions to support customers. ”
Accelerated development of additional office space and makerspace
Last summer, the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency sustainably renovated 3000m2 of the former aircraft workshop ‘Building 356’ and transformed it into an inspiring working environment. The first companies, all active in the field of aerospace, drones and sensors, have since moved to Unmanned Valley.
Because of the great interest, the Agency has accelerated the second redevelopment phase of Building 356. An additional 1700m2 of space will be realized to accommodate a mix of start-ups, scale-ups, mature companies and knowledge institutions – including leading Dutch secondary vocational school MBO College Airport that will move its drone activities to Unmanned Valley. The first tenants are expected to move to the new units from the second quarter of 2021.
Together with the Leiden Instrument Makers School a joint makerspace will be realized, initially with basic equipment for maintenance and small modifications to drones and other sensor-related innovations. For more complex projects the companies at Unmanned Valley will have access to the high-quality machinery and research equipment – as well as the associated knowledge, skills and experience – of the Leiden Instrument Makers School, the IoT Forensic Lab of University of Applied Sciences Leiden and the composites laboratory of Inholland University of Applied Sciences.
Indoor GPS positioning and state-of-the-art 5G communication infrastructure
Being a business park with extensive test facilities – indoor in the former aircraft hangar ‘Hangar 1’, an outdoor flight box and in time also a BVLOS test corridor to sea – makes Unmanned Valley unique in the Netherlands.
To develop Hangar 1 into a multi-use indoor drone center, a GPS repeater system and – in collaboration with Do IoT Fieldlab – an ultra-modern 5G communication infrastructure will be installed. This extends the opportunities to perform experimental test work independently of weather conditions and, if desired, out of sight of others.
Unmanned Valley is an initiative of Delft University of Technology and the municipality of Katwijk – made possible by the Dutch central and regional government as well as the EU’s Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – and will develop into a breeding ground for high-tech activities.