The civil sector for drones offers good prospects in the Netherlands. The number of drones in the agriculture, energy and infrastructure, security, delivery, and mobility sectors are expected to more than quadruple from 2019 to 2050 with a seven percent increase in 2023. New opportunities are related in particular to unique capabilities of gathering data. Drones equipped with cameras and sensors can help with inspection, monitoring, and other data gathering
One emerging opportunity in the drone market is “inspection” as a service, especially in the offshore wind industry. The Dutch scale-up company Atmos is already developing the necessary technology to use UAVs for inspection at offshore wind parks. This market is expected to grow as the Dutch continue to invest heavily in offshore wind power. By 2050, a significant portion of the Dutch section of the North Sea will likely be covered by wind turbines. After 2030, offshore wind is expected to be the main source of sustainably generated electricity in the Netherlands. Therefore, opportunities for offshore park inspection services have strong growth potential.
Drones can also be used to monitor logistical processes. The Port of Rotterdam is already facilitating this application and is developing supporting policies. It is also building the infrastructure for UAV traffic at the port in so-called “very low-level airspace”. The Port Authority is planning to invite companies that offer unmanned traffic management systems to tender soon. The pilot will start by mid-2022 and will last for two years.
(Cyber) security is another niche sector with great potential for the drone market. The extensive usage of drones requires elaborate cybersecurity solutions. Drones are remotely controlled and therefore vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Conversely, they can also be used to increase security and can serve to augment human guards by patrolling the worksites and capturing aerial footage of the assets, securing perimeters, and preventing break-ins. For these reasons, synergies with the drone and (cyber) security sectors are necessary and developing in the Netherlands. The Dutch city of The Hague is a world-leading (cyber) security hub and an ideal place for drone companies to find partners in the industry. The largest security cluster, The Hague Security Delta (HSD), is located in The Hague. More than 15,000 people work for HSD members, which are comprised of over 400 different organizations, including Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), NATO Communications and Information Agency, the Dutch Cyber Command, and the National Cyber Security Center.
Synergies are also developing between the Dutch drone community at Unmanned Valley, and the Dutch space community. Unmanned Valley is a large-scale publicly and privately funded UAV test location. For R&D, it partners with Delft University of Technology and the independent research institute TNO. The European Space Agency’s technical center ESTEC and the Netherlands Space Campus are located close to Unmanned Valley, and they collaborate with the local drone test center. UAVs and satellites can work well together because drones can be equipped with metrological data sensors and supplement the data gathered by weather satellites.
The demand for drones in the Netherlands is not only related to their sensory capabilities. The number of UAVs in agriculture is supposed to grow swiftly from 120 in 2019 to 1,500 in 2035. The technology already exists and its usage is accepted by most stakeholders. As a result, demand is expected to rise significantly in the coming years. In the long term, fruit and vegetable growers in the Netherlands are expected to use drones to spray crops. At some point, demand is expected to stagnate as the life cycle of a drone is long and they are capable of covering large agricultural areas.
Another promising development relates to delivery and mobility drones. This market is expected to start growing rapidly from 2035 onwards. While current technology seems to be lacking, this sector is supposed to have the biggest economic impact on the Netherlands in the long run.
March 21-23, 2023
Natasha Keylard, Head of Section
U.S. Commercial Service – The Netherlands
Natasha.Keylard@trade.gov | +31 70 310 2279