Spie Netherlands’ experiences with H2O Drones

Written by Karst Beens

One of the most common inspections for our drones, is inspecting water infrastructure. We are talking about locks, sheet piles, bridge piers, and everything that is underwater. These inspections – often commissioned by the Department of Public Works or Dutch municipalities – are done by various companies, including Spie Nederland. We went along with Arjen Geelhoed, superintendent at Spie Nederland, and Mario Bergman, drone pilot at Spie Nederland, to an inspection of the Middensluis in IJmuiden. There we talked about the cooperation between H2O Drones and Spie.


Spie is a global multi-technology service provider and partner of H2O Drones. They too use our drone, the DTG3 from Deep Trekker. “We use the drone mainly when inspecting locks and lock gates,” says Arjen Geelhoed, performer at Spie. Geelhoed has been using Deep Trekker’s DTG3 for inspections for a while now. “It is fully integrated into the work process. We use it weekly during inspections and often for a few days in a row. Especially if they are large inspections.”


H2O Drones and Spie in cooperation
Now both H2O Drones and Spie work partially in the same sector, but we were not yet well acquainted with each other. Of course we knew Spie, but not vice versa. Thanks to a common partner, we came into contact with each other. “I started looking on the Internet for underwater drones that we could deploy,” explains Geelhoed. “I saw that RPS was already using underwater drones and after a phone call I heard that they were very satisfied with the drones and service. Then I learned which company was behind the drones: H2O Drones. Soon I had contact with Karst Beens, director of H2O Drones. After some conversations we started an enthusiastic cooperation.”

Geelhoed reveals that they also worked with an underwater drone before, but that the quality of the drone, the service of the company and the communication were not what Spie was looking for. “I won’t say too much about it, but it wasn’t for us. Parts and maintenance took way too long; it was all just a hassle,” says Geelhoed. “With you guys, it’s the opposite. The service is very fast and reliable. Suppose our drone is broken and we have no time to repair it, then we can get a replacement model from you. That assurance is very nice and reassuring, especially if you have a busy schedule or an important inspection coming up. Or we can ask if you can do the inspection for us. All no problem.”


“With the DTG3, we can execute everything very quickly, without the additional safety checks required.”
– Executive Arjen Geelhoed of Spie Nederland

The DTG3

The DTG3 is a relatively small and maneuverable underwater drone from Deep Trekker. H2O Drones is the officially certified retailer of all Deep Trekker products in the Netherlands. Equipped with a 4K low-light camera, clear and sharp images are a guarantee. Perfect for clear and deep water, such as that near locks. The work in itself with the drone also offers a significant plus. “With the DTG3, we can do everything very quickly, without the additional safety checks required. This allows us to meet our deadlines more easily. After all, fines are quickly incurred if a project takes too long. Also, the drone can be deployed quickly, so we can act immediately in the event of a malfunction report, for example.”

As with all of Deep Trekker’s other drones and crawlers, the DTG3 is controllable from the side via a controller. “You can move up and down with the camera and move horizontally and vertically with the drone. That gives a lot of possibilities, but can be a bit confusing at first.” Geelhoed emphasizes that it’s mainly an advantage. “The precise descending and sailing back to the surface is very nice for this kind of inspection. You then have to master the controls, but there is a handout with the drone and we received training in this from H2O Drones. Once you get the hang of the controls, it really works perfectly. The small size of the drone also makes inspections easy. Simple and efficient.”


“Dit lost simpelweg ons probleem op met inspecties”
– Dronepiloot Mario Bergman bij Spie Nederland



Spie has been using H2O Drones’ underwater drones for a while now, but are there any plans for the future?
“We are satisfied with this model for now. It meets everything we need. But if a client like the Department of Public Works says they want to see more of inspections with, for example, sonar or other objects that are difficult to see, then expanding to a second drone will be highly likely,” says Geelhoed.

According to Mario Bergman, drone pilot at Spie Nederland, what is missing now is moving laterally along a wall with the DTG3. “This makes inspecting an entire wall a bit less efficient. It is possible with other drones from H2O Drones, though, so who knows if we’ll purchase a second drone.”


“Yes, we are super happy with the drone” , says Bergman. “This simply solves our problem with inspections. And should there be a problem with the drone, which by the way we haven’t had yet, we know that we will be helped quickly by a service provider in the Netherlands. This saves a lot compared to suppliers abroad.”



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Saving lives with innovation

Written by Karst Beens

Search & Rescue missions always involve danger. This is because the rescuer is often in unknown territory. This can lead to loss of time, which can make the difference between life and death. In the worst case scenario for the rescuer, the mission can become life-threatening. That is why we want to help make such underwater missions less risky.

With this in mind, we gave a demonstration to the fire brigade of Rotterdam Rijnmond Safety Region. These days, they are increasingly busy searching for victims who have ended up in water, and deploy divers to assist them. But why do they need the help of a drone? The answer is hidden in the first paragraph: safety! However, the drone does not completely replace the divers. Rather, we support the divers.

The drone will go into the water before the diver. This way we can check the environment for safety risks. For example, obstacles which the diver can get stuck behind or places which he should not swim in due to cramped conditions or currents.


What does our underwater drone offer for Search & Rescue?
Besides safety, we can also help make the mission more efficient. Currently, for a Search & Rescue mission, the search area is divided into grids. This grid helps with orientation and is intended to ensure that no spot is left unexamined or examined twice. While this is an efficient method, it does take a lot of time to make such a grid. But with our drones, grids are no longer necessary.

This is due to our sonar software! In most Dutch waters a diver has no more than one to two metres visibility underwater. Even with light these conditions hardly improve. Sonar, on the other hand, has a range of sixty metres and is not affected by dark or turbid water. In short: with sonar, the mission becomes much easier and can be carried out faster, allowing the victim to be rescued or located sooner. No preparations are required, only a few minutes to prepare the drone for the dive.


The fire brigade of Rotterdam Rijnmond Safety Region
Project leader Rick Koedoot of the Rotterdam Rijnmond Safety Region was responsible for the purchase of the ROV REVOLUTION underwater drone from H2O Drones. He confirms that the drones are mainly used to support divers and to search for human victims who have fallen into the water.

“Of course we have diving teams in the fire brigade, but that is a risky task,” Koedoot explains. “We want to work as risk-free as we can, despite the dangerous work.” He emphasises that the underwater drones from H2O Drones can be of great help to their divers. “The ROVs, or underwater drones, are equipped with sonar and therefore have particularly good underwater visibility, even when the water is dark or murky. That is important for risk analysis,” he said.

As Koedoot says, the drones will make a risk analysis for our divers, so that they know what to expect underwater. “This can significantly reduce the number of potential accidents. We want to know what the drones see underwater, such as obstacles. Then we can determine if it is dangerous for a diver.” After all, divers can get stuck behind obstacles underwater, which can create a life-threatening situation.


“The cooperation is super. The communication is smooth and we could ask and perform whatever we wanted and were well guided in this. Of course, we had questions and wanted to do some tests and that was also possible. That was very helpful and informative.”

Rick Koedoot, fire brigade Safety region Rotterdam Rijnmond


Locating human victims underwater is also what the drone will be used for. This can also be done quickly and efficiently thanks to the sonar. How Security Region Rotterdam Rijnmond came up with underwater drones as a solution is another story.

For his thesis in 2014, Daniël Boender, diving coordinator at the fire brigade of Safety Region Rotterdam Rijnmond, researched the safety of diving and Search & Rescue missions. Through him, the fire brigade came up with the idea of using underwater drones with sonar. Often when they searched for a victim during a Search & Rescue mission with divers and were unsuccessful, the police came to continue the search. They did so with a boat equipped with sonar. “And I saw some possibilities in that,” said Boender. “They then find the victim very quickly. If we had that three hours earlier, we could have made a difference,” he added. “The question then came to me quickly: why don’t we have that?”

Boender emphasises that diving is not without risk. “We have lost or nearly lost people during missions. I then started studying Integral Safety to tackle this problem. And with success.”

It went with trial and error according to Boender. “We tested a lot of options, but not everything was equally effective. At the time, these were interesting options with potential, but there was no decisive model among them.” After the test phase and getting the green light to innovate within the diving team, he ended up with H2O Drones through a tender. “Soon we got into a conversation and came to the purchase of a drone. The next step is to make this national. This innovation fell so well that most were convinced to share it with other safety regions.”

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We are delighted that the fire brigade of Rotterdam Rijnmond Safety Region also saw the advantages of our drones and made the choice to strengthen their team with our Deep Trekker ROV REVOLUTION underwater drone. They chose the standard equipped version, which is more than enough to improve the safety and efficiency of their missions.

We will support them as much as we can in making their missions safer. To share our knowledge and skills with the firefighters, we are giving ten firefighters a course on how to use our drones (most efficiently).

We would like to thank the Rotterdam Rijnmond Safety Region fire brigade again for the opportunity to show what our drones can do and what an asset they are in Search & Rescue missions. We wish them much success with further missions!

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A real-life story by Leo van Houwelingen, Prevent Survey BV

Written by Karst Beens

Prevent Survey and H2O Drones have been good partners for a long time. But how did this cooperation come about? You can read it in this interview with Leo van Houwelingen, damage expert and co-owner of Prevent Survey BV.

To start with, the markets of Prevent Survey and H2O Drones cross. Prevent Survey’s activities include damage assessments of ship hulls, machinery and equipment of inland navigation vessels, offshore vessels, facilities such as harbour quays, locks and bridges.
That is where H2O Drones and Prevent Survey meet professionally. H2O Drones is specialised in underwater inspections by means of underwater drones of many of these objects.

“We were looking for a broadening of our work, namely underwater inspections without having to go into the water ourselves,” says Leo van Houwelingen. “After some research on the internet, we almost immediately ended up with H2O Drones.” According to Van Houwelingen, underwater inspections are almost non-existent in their world. “If we do, it is done with divers,” he explains. “If we did then, it would cost a lot of money. The problem in Dutch waters is not only the visibility, which is often poor, but also the currents.” Van Houwelingen explains that divers were moved by the current, making it difficult to determine exactly where they were and what they were inspecting. “They went underwater on the left hand side and came up again starboard side. So in our industry that didn’t always work very well.”

After some phone calls, good contact developed between H2O Drones and Prevent Survey. “We then purchased an underwater drone and designed a doppler system together with the H2O director Karst Beens”, says Van Houwelingen. With that, you can determine where the drone is underwater. “With that position, we knew which part of the ship was being inspected and could work accurately.”

Previously, Prevent Survey’s working method was a lot different, without underwater drones. Van Houwelingen: “Before, we often had to take a ship out of the water to properly inspect the bottom. That takes a lot of time and is also quite expensive. We thought we could do it better and faster, but how?”

“So we are now doing that with underwater drones with good success,” Van Houwelingen continues. “Even if a ship has damage underwater, it can be seen very quickly with the drones thanks to sonar. Then you don’t have to worry about the water quality either. It also broadens our market, which is very valuable. We would like to distinguish ourselves and thus deliver top quality work.”

Van Houwelingen explains that visibility is very important in the water. H2O Drones’ underwater drones are therefore also equipped with sonar. “Without sonar you can see just a meter with a lot of rubbish in the water. Sonar doesn’t suffer from that junk, so therefore you can see a lot.” Van Houwelingen says H2O Drones helped them a lot to master this. “The cooperation was always reliable and pleasant.”

The controls of the underwater drone were also explained by H2O Drones, says Van Houwelingen. “It is very easy to do. It is almost like a game. You shouldn’t handle it like that, of course, but it does make controlling it a lot easier.”

Van Houwelingen says he is very satisfied with the cooperation and service of H2O Drones. “H2O Drones is always there for us. It was like that right from the start. We had some problems with the batteries, but that was solved with great attention and patience. We were more than satisfied with that: It is a reliable partner of ours.”

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