Airbus has begun shore-to-ship trials in Singapore with its Skyways parcel delivery drone.
This marks the first time drone technology has been deployed in real port conditions, to deliver a variety of small, time-critical maritime essentials to working vessels at anchorage.
The maiden shore-to-ship delivery flight was made to the Swire Pacific Offshore’s Anchor Handling Tug Supply vessel ‘M/V Pacific Centurion’, 1.5km from the shoreline of Singapore’s Marina South Pier, carrying 1.5kg of 3D printed consumables.
Landing safely on the ship deck and depositing its cargo to the shipmaster, the Skyways unmanned air vehicle swiftly returned to its base, with the entire flight taking within ten minutes.
The trials are being undertaken in conjunction with partner Wilhelmsen Ships Services, one of the world’s leading maritime logistics and port services company.
During the trials, Airbus’ Skyways drone will lift off from the pier with a payload capability of up to 4kg, and navigate autonomously along pre-determined ‘aerial corridors’ to vessels as far as 3km from the coast.
Airbus’ Skyways lead, Leo Jeoh said: “We are thrilled to launch the first trial of its kind in the maritime world. Today’s accomplishment is a culmination of months of intense preparation by our dedicated team, and the strong collaboration with our partner, as we pursue a new terrain in the maritime industry.”
“We are also happy to be taking a step forward for Airbus’ urban air mobility endeavour, as we continue to explore and seek better understanding of what it takes to fly safe and reliable autonomous flying vehicles safely,” he added.
The use of unmanned aircraft systems in the maritime industry paves the way for possible enlargement of existing ship agency services’ portfolio, speeding up deliveries by up to six times, lowering delivery costs by up to 90 per cent, reducing carbon footprint, and significantly mitigating risks of accidents associated with launch-boat deliveries.
Airbus and Wilhelmsen Ships Services signed an agreement in June 2018 to drive the development of an end-to-end unmanned aircraft system for safe shore-to-ship deliveries. A landing platform and control centre were set up at the Marina South Pier in November 2018, through the facilitation of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.
The maritime agency also designated anchorages for vessels to anchor off the pier for the trials, while the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore worked with Airbus and Wilhelmsen to ensure safety of the trials.
Skyways is an experimental project aimed at establishing seamless multi-modal transportation networks in smart cities. Through Skyways, Airbus aims to develop an unmanned airborne infrastructure solution and address the sustainability and efficiency of unmanned aircraft in large urban and maritime environments.
Having demonstrated the ability to deliver parcels safely and reliably to vessels anchored off the coast of Singapore, Skyways will soon be commencing another trial phase delivering air parcels autonomously in an urban environment, at the National University of Singapore.