Drones in logistics

In recent months, a great deal has been said and written about parcel delivery using drones. However, large-scale use of drones for this purpose remains a pipe dream. Drones which collect stock from a warehouse or monitor materials and equipment in a yard offer more opportunities in the short term. Good reasons for VIL to launch a project focussing on the use of drones – or flying robots – in a logistics environment.

status: Closed | theme: Digital transformation | type: Regional

Technically and economically worthwhile?

There are already drones on the market, the camera technology exists. VIL wants to investigate more deeply the technical and economic feasibility of using drones, and to be able to estimate the operational and investment costs more accurately.

This project investigates precisely which process optimizations and work rates can be achieved through the use of drones – or flying robots – and what operational and investments costs are involved. VIL wants to work with the participating companies to create greater clarity around the practical applications of drones in logistics. They are looking at the state of the technology, existing applications and possible activities, in both warehouses and yards. They are also studying what is feasible – technically and economically.

One reason why drones will tend to be used in a warehouse environment or yard rather than in parcel transport is that they can operate entirely on private property. This means that there are far fewer legal restrictions.

Many potential tasks

Firstly, the possible applications of drones will be explored – in both yards and warehouses. The potential functions are very varied. For example, drones equipped with cameras can be deployed for conventional inspection and security tasks in yards, or to monitor and take stock of containers. But they can just as well carry small items to a place in the yard that is difficult to reach.

Inside the warehouse, there are also possibilities for using drones, for instance to help with stocktaking. There may well be other tasks that they can carry out as well. For this reason, best practices in Belgium and abroad are considered.

Practical testing

VIL took KU Leuven on board to assist with the testing. This university already has experience of drones with the VertiKUL, for example. Practical testing is carried out at two companies. This is designed to reveal what technology is needed in order to deploy drones in practice and what actual benefits they could deliver for the logistics sector.

Demo 24/06/2016


Start: June 2015
Lead time: 19 months

Participating companies

Colruyt, DP World, Elia, G4S, H.Essers, ICO terminals, MSC-PSA European Terminal, Nova & hesse-Noord Natie, Sarens Group, Vervoer Verbessem and Willemen Groep.


DP World





MSC PSA European Terminal

Nova & hesse-Noord Natie






Willemen GroepVIL Kick-off Drones in de logistiek

Sounding board

BeUAS, “Belgische vereniging voor onbemande luchtvaart”


VIL stands for a strong logistical Flanders

About VIL

Koninklijkelaan 76 - B-2600 Berchem
T: +32 3 229 05 00
E: info@vil.be
VAT: BE 0480.185.038
IBAN: BE59 0014 0122 5826