In a unique shore-to-ship delivery an Airbus-built drone took off from the Marina South Pier and flew out to the anchor handler Pacific Centurion, owned by Swire Pacific, to deliver a small three-pound package of goods.
The project was a result of collaborative effort between European aerospace giant Airbus, Wilhelmsen and Singaporean authorities. Wilhelmsen set up the necessary maritime and port operations, and acquired approvals from the port. Airbus provided the overall Skyways system architect and provider, contributing its expertise in vertical lift systems to develop the drone for shore-to-ship deliveries. Airbus and Wilhelmsen signed an agreement in June 2018 to develop an end-to-end unmanned aircraft system for safe shore-to-ship deliveries.
The trial involved a drone carrying a carrying 1.5kg of 3D printed consumables (3.3-pound) parcel to a vessel anchored 1.5 kilometres (about a mile) from the coast. It landed safely on the on the deck of the Swire Pacific Offshore’s Anchor Handling Tug Supply vessel, M/V Pacific Centurion 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 Airbus said in a statement. The trial is being facilitated by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore is also working with Wilhelmsen and Airbus to ensure the safety of the trials.
The project involves drones carrying up to four kilos of cargo and navigating autonomously along a pre-determined flight corridor to vessels as far as three kilometres from the coast.
Deliveries to ships anchored offshore are carried out by small boats currently. The use of drones can make deliveries to ships up to six times faster, lower delivery costs by up to 90 percent, cut companies’ carbon footprints and is safer, Airbus said.
Airbus and Wilhelmsen have completed what they believe is the world’s first commercial shore-to-ship delivery for ship’s agency services. The team has tested its “Skyways” system in Singapore before, but this event marked the start of its commercial trial operations.
Marius Johansen, VP Commercial, Wilhelmsen Ships Agency said, “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”. Wilhelmsen views delivery by drone in busy ports as a natural evolution. The method offers a more cost-effective, quicker and safer means of delivering, small, time-critical items to vessels.
Leo Jeoh, Airbus Skyways Lead added, “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 new terrain in the maritime industry.”
In appearance, the Skyways unit is much like a conventional heavy-lift drone, like the models sold to the film industry. Airbus’ proprietary model differs in its autonomy system, which is designed to work in concert with a network of shore side drop-box locations. These are similar to Amazon lockers, but with robotic arms conducting the loading and package handling work.
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.