Drone deliveries to vessels takes off in Singapore

Wilhelmsen’s shore-to-ship pilot project in Singapore, developed in collaboration with Airbus, has begun trial operations delivering a variety of small items to working vessels at anchorage at the port.

Lifting off from Marina South Pier in Singapore with 3D printed consumables from Wilhelmsen’s onshore 3D printing micro-factory, the Airbus Skyways drone began its first journey by autonomously travelling along pre-determined ‘aerial-corridors’ on a 1.5km flight to Eastern Working Anchorage.

The drone landed on the deck of the Swire Pacific Offshore (SPO) Anchor Handling Tug Supply (AHTS) vessel M/V Pacific Centurion and deposited its 1.5kg cargo before returning to its base. The entire delivery, from initial take-off to landing back at base, took ten minutes.

“The now proven, seamless operation of drone deliveries from shore-to-ship, in one of the world’s busiest ports, proves the hard work, investment and faith we, and indeed our partners, placed in the Agency by Air drone delivery project over the past two years was not misplaced,” said Marius Johansen, VP Commercial, Wilhelmsen Ships Agency.

“Delivery of essential spares, medical supplies and cash to Master via launch boat is an established part of our portfolio of husbandry services, which we provide day in and day out, in ports all over the world. Modern technology such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) is just a new tool, albeit a very cool one, with which we can push our industry ever forward and improve how we serve our customers.”

Wilhelmsen originally signed an MOU with Airbus in June 2018 to begin the project, since which time Wilhelmsen has been setting up the necessary maritime and port operations, and gaining relevant approvals from port authorities, while Airbus created the overall Skyways system architecture.

“We are thrilled to launch the first trial of its kind in the maritime world. (This) accomplishment is a culmination of months of intense preparation by our dedicated team, and the strong collaboration with our partner, as we pursue new terrain in the maritime industry,” said Leo Jeoh, Airbus Skyways Lead.

The ongoing pilot trial will initially focus on offshore supply vessels at anchorage 1.5km from the pier, before the flight range is gradually extended to as far as 3km from the shore over time.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is facilitating the tests by providing interim access to the Marina South Pier as the launching and landing point for Airbus’ delivery drone, as well as offering designated anchorages for vessels during the trial. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore is also working with Wilhelmsen and Airbus to manage safety on the project.

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Rob O'Dwyer
Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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