DronePort Sint-Truiden, located on the site of a former military airbase, has a fascinating history that spans several decades. The transformation of the airbase into a state-of-the-art center for drone technology reflects the adaptability and forward-thinking approach of the stakeholders involved.

© Johan (A) Engels, 1971

A former military base that now accomodates innovative aviation companies

DronePort Sint-Truiden has a rich history that encompasses both its previous life as a military airbase and its transformation into a cutting-edge hub for UAS technology and innovation in aviation. The site’s military heritage adds a layer of significance to its role as a pioneering center for unmanned aerial vehicles.

Military airbase origins

The origins of the site can be traced back to the early 20th century when it served as a military airbase. Initially established in the 1930s, the airbase played a crucial role in Belgium’s defense strategy during various historical periods. Its initial purpose was to serve as an alternate airfield for the 3rd and 4th squadrons of the Second Fighter Regiment, which were stationed in Nivelles. As a military facility, it witnessed the evolution of aviation technology and served as a hub for military aircraft operations.

© Jean-Marie Hanon, 1983

© Jeroen Stroes, 2008

Transition to civilian use

With changing geopolitical landscapes and advancements in aviation technology, the need for a dedicated military airbase diminished over time. In the late 1990s, the decision was made to transition the site to civilian use. A ring road was constructed, but the overall site suffered from neglect. Finally, in 2004, a plan was unveiled to develop the airbase into a regional (civilian) airport named Vliegveld Sint-Truiden, which would later be renamed Limburg Regional Airport (LRA) in 2009. In 2007, it was announced that a small portion of the site would be designated for military purposes, serving as a training ground for non-commissioned officers undergoing training at the nearby Saffraanberg. Additionally, several businesses were established on the premises, and training flights took place.

Vision for drone innovation

Recognizing the potential of drones and the emerging drone industry, regional authorities, government bodies, and local partners seized the opportunity to repurpose the former military airbase into a center dedicated to drone innovation. This visionary thinking by the city of Sint-Truiden, LRM, POM Limburg and JK Invest laid the foundation for what would become DronePort Sint-Truiden.

© dbv architecten, 2015

Construction and repurposing

Extensive renovations and repurposing efforts were undertaken to transform the former military airbase into a state-of-the-art facility suitable for drone development, research, and testing. The existing infrastructure was adapted to meet the specific requirements of the drone industry, including the construction of hangars, laboratories, and training facilities.

Opening of DronePort Sint-Truiden

In 2018, DronePort Sint-Truiden was officially launched, marking a significant milestone in the site’s history. The transformation from a military airbase to a center for drone technology symbolized a shift towards a future-oriented industry that would drive innovation, create jobs, and contribute to the economic growth of the region.

© industriebouw MST, 2020

Continuous evolution

Since its launch in 2018, DronePort Sint-Truiden has thrived as a focal point for aviation enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, researchers, and industry experts. The former military airbase has evolved into a thriving ecosystem that embraces the latest advancements in manned and unmanned aerial vehicles. In 2020 we finished the construction of a brand new hangar next to the campus building. In the mean time, we were able to acquire over 30ha of land that is to be further developed into a full-fledged business park for companies with activities in the aviation industry, fully accessible with taxiways to access the runway.

Towards a new era in aviation

By leveraging its military airbase heritage, DronePort Sint-Truiden pays homage to the site’s historical significance while paving the way for a new era of aviation. The transition from a military facility to a center for drone innovation reflects the dynamic nature of technology and its impact on shaping the future. Today, DronePort Sint-Truiden stands as a beacon of progress, driving the advancement of aerial vehicles and their applications in various industries.