ALMELO – The Almelo company Boessenkool is completely ready for a world with drones. The future is bright, the applications are endless. “But yes, those regulations, huh?!” Ditta on den Dries March 28, 2021
The Drone4Emergency, a drone that can transport people and keep a weight of up to 150 kilograms in the air for half an hour, is ready for use in the large hall on the Turfkade. The drone can be used in (traffic) accidents, in disaster areas and in war situations.
A while ago, an exercise was conducted in the Noordoostpolder with a ‘wounded soldier, who had to be quickly removed from the war zone’. The Almelo invention did its job excellently and the Ministry of Defense is enthusiastic. “They’ve been that way for four years now. In the initial period, we worked very closely with the Ministry of Defense,” says director Eelco Osse. “They wanted to purchase ten machines from us. We would deliver within a year. But it still hasn’t happened because of drone regulations.”
He confesses that he was incredibly excited about it in those early days. “We are pioneers in the development of drones. And that is wonderful, but can also have a very inhibiting effect. We encounter barriers, because the regulations surrounding drones are lacking. In part it is of course good to be very careful about this. Imagine if anything could just happen, then we got a mishmash in the air. You should not want to.”
“But it frustrates me that, when it comes to drones, everything is allowed privately and nothing commercially. I don’t understand any of that. It’s the world upside down. The drones are ready for use in our company, but no commercial transaction has yet taken place. And that’s sour. We have had interest from the US military, among others. And there was recently a strawberry farmer from Limburg who came forward with the question whether we could supply a drone that could spray his crop. Then the answer is: it is certainly possible, but it is not (yet) allowed.”
Eelco Osse, director of Boessenkool in Almelo, can’t wait until the signal goes green for his drones. © Lenneke Lingmont
Frustrating, but Eelco Osse is not the man to lose heart. “There will come a day when our drones can be used. I think it will take another year. In the meantime, we are just continuing to develop here.”
In addition to Drone4 Emercency, Boessenkool has also developed Drone4Agro, Drone4Logistics and Drone4FireFighting. “The latter can be used for fires that are very difficult to fight by the fire service. Consider, for example, high-rise apartment buildings. For the fire brigade, these are very complicated fires. They have to put out the fire from below, at the risk of the building collapsing above their heads, as we have seen with the Twin Towers.
The Drone4FireFighting can be on site very quickly and start extinguishing from above. Everyone knows that time is precious in fires; the sooner under control, the better. Carrying water is too heavy for a drone, but dropping powder bombs from above can quickly take the flames out of the fire. This allows the fire service to extinguish the fire more safely. The fire service is enthusiastic about this application.”
Eelco Osse does not intend to wait and see for the regulations regarding drones. He ‘just’ continues to develop. Boessenkool’s very first drone could only stay in the air for a few minutes. The flight time is now about ten minutes. “We are continuously working on extending that flight time. We are now aiming for a drone that can stay in the air for half an hour on a battery. The ultimate goal is more than an hour.”
“I always look for the edge of what I can do and a number of customers also think along with us in this process. If our drones can fly for an hour, new applications will suddenly arise. Think of a drone that can hover over a disaster area with a searchlight. Half an hour is not enough. Also for a farmer, a drone that can spray his crop for an hour suddenly becomes more interesting. And parcel delivery between islands is suddenly also a great option,” says Osse.
Time is ticking by, but it certainly does not stand still at the Turfkade. “The development of drones remains very interesting. We also innovate when it comes to the ‘power’ of the drone. I am one of the initiators of the Hydrogen Hub Twente, which was recently established in Almelo. When we brainstormed in our company about extending the flight time of drones, someone suggested using a fuel engine. But it was immediately said: ‘No, that’s going back to the ice age. Hydrogen is our future energy source. Let’s develop a hydrogen-powered drone! I think that’s wonderful.”
Despite the long run, Osse has great confidence in the future of drones. He can’t wait for the signals to go green. “In the meantime, we continue to lead the way. Soon we hope to have the very first certified pilot. And when all pilots are certified and the drones too, then it can start. That will take another year. I think.”