Airbus tests first shore-to-ship drone deliveries

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Airbus has begun shore-to-ship trials in Singapore of its Skyways parcel delivery drone.

The testing program is the first time a drone has been used in real port conditions to deliver maritime supplies 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 the M/V Pacific Centurion, 1.5km (1 mile) from the shoreline of Singapore’s Marina South Pier, carrying 1.5kg (3.3 lb) of 3D printed consumables.

During the test, the Skyways drone landed safely on the ship’s deck, deposited its cargo to the shipmaster and then returned to its base. The entire flight took less than 10 minutes.

The test program is being undertaken with port services company Wilhelmsen Ships Services. During flight testing, the drone will launch from the pier with a payload capability of up to 4kg (9 lb) and navigate autonomously along pre-determined routes to vessels as far as 3km (2 miles) from the coast.

Marius Johansen, vice president commercial, ships agency at Wilhelmsen Ships Services said, “Delivery of essential spares, medical supplies and cash via 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 are a new tool with which we can push our industry ever forward and improve how we serve our customers.”

The use of unmanned aircraft systems in the maritime industry could speed up deliveries by up to six times, lowering delivery costs by up to 90%, reducing carbon footprint, and mitigate the risks of accidents associated with launch-boat deliveries, said Airbus.

Airbus and Wilhelmsen Ships Services have been working on the testing program for the Skyways drone since June 2018. A landing platform and control centre were set up at the Marina South Pier in Singapore during November 2018.

Skyways is an experimental project aimed at establishing multi-modal transportation networks in smart cities. The next trial phase for the drone is to deliver parcels autonomously in an urban environment at the National University of Singapore.

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 16 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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