Ports and Terminals

APM Terminals Turn to Drones to Improve Safety and Operational Efficiency

APM Terminals Turn to Drones to Improve Safety and Operational Efficiency
Logistics Manager

APM Terminals inland services facilities located in Santiago and San Antonio in Chile have turned to drones to improve security and increase operational efficiency. The drones are now a part of the day to day routine at APM terminals as they are often seen in the sky carrying out a multitude of tasks.

Director for Latin America at APM Terminals’ subsidiary Container Operators S.A., Hector Espinoza said, “Our safety supervisors are the ones tasked with keeping the people and activities at our facilities safe, but by doing their jobs next to container stacks, trucks and other machinery, they were exposed to the highest risks.”

Mr. Espinoza further explained, “I knew the mining industry was having success with drones for safety, so we started testing it out,” he said. Work began in 2016 and since then drones have been used periodically to film the site’s operations, monitor traffic flows and container stack efficiency as well as for observing unsafe behaviour, such as truck drivers leaving their cabins. Now operations can be documented and analysed from above, a viewpoint that was previously unavailable.”

APM currently operate three drones, one in Santiago and the other two in the larger San Antonio facility. With the new technology in the sky, safety supervisors can focus on workshops and areas with less machine traffic. High container stacks and other potential risks are also monitored.

The first drones to be used in the project were only fitted with a camera, however, this was soon changed as all the current drones now have sensors for night-time flying as well as a speaker to communicate directly with people below.

Geofencing guides the drones on a predetermined route map, while the operator has a live stream view enabling him to instantly action any safety instructions via a phone call or the drone’s speaker.

Mr. Espinoza commented, “Since the arrival of the drones, visibility of terminal operations has improved considerably and ‘hot spots’, such as traffic flow, container stack efficiency and unsafe behavior can be identified instantly.”

Previously dangerous tasks such as crane and rooftop inspections can now be carried out by the drone.

“Blind-spots between high-density container stacks now are totally visible from a bird’s eye view,” added Mr. Espinoza.

The drone project is expected to be rolled out to other APM Terminals’ locations over the next few months.

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