Singapore Trio Trials Shore-To-Ship Drones
SINGAPORE–A Singapore trio consisting of ST Engineering, Sumitomo Corporation and Skyports has come together to provide what it claims to be the world’s first shore-to-ship parcel drone delivery.
The team will test and validate beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) flight operations, parcel pricing, frequency of service and demand in Singapore over a nine-month period before pushing the service globally. ST Engineering will provide technical expertise as the OEM of the DroNet drone system, while Skyports will be the operator and Sumitomo Corporation will provide the go-to-market support, including its own fleet of vessels.
The announcement was made at the Singapore Airshow, being held Feb. 14-18.
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) used will be the DrN-35, which has a payload of 7 kg (15 lb.) and total range of 8-10 km (5-6t mi.). From its docking station it can automatically deploy, land and charge its batteries. ST Engineering said the system also worked with the Maritime Port Authority to enable it to have updated locations of shipping traffic in real time for the drone’s navigation.
ST Engineering vice president and head of unmanned aircraft systems Teong Soo Soon said such service will be likely to fulfill 10-20% of ship delivery demand in Singapore, and he expects around 100 flights during the nine-month period.
He added that while many countries have tested similar shore-to-ship delivery concepts, this will be the first with paying customers.
The project is a follow-up from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore’s call for proposals in 2020, and also received funding support from the regulator. Airbus also has conducted similar trials over Singaporean waters since March 2019 under the Skyways parcel delivery drone project.
“As home to one of the busiest ports in the world, Singapore is the ideal setting in which to demonstrate to customers the potential for UAS to transform maritime logistics by moving essential supplies in a more cost-effective and sustainable way,” said Sanjay Suresh, Skyports’ head of business development and operations.
Unmanned/autonomous systems represent one of three aviation industry points of emphasis that the Singapore Economic Development Board has identified in the foreseeable future. The others are eVTOLs and aviation sustainability projects.