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Airbus Skyways Parcel Drone Trials World’s First Shore-to-Ship Deliveries in Singapore

3D printed consumables

The drone carrying 3D printed consumables completed the entire delivery, from take-off from the micro-factory to the vessel deck and back to landing at the base, in just ten minutes.

3D printed consumables
Above: Airbus Skyways lead & Wilhelmsen Ships agent inspecting the contents of the parcel/Image Credit: Wilhelmsen Ships Services

Airbus’s Project Skyways parcel drone successfully completed the world’s first shore-to-ship trial deliveries in Singapore. The trials were undertaken along with its partner Wilhelmsen Ships Services, one of the world’s leading maritime logistics and port Services Company. The drone with 3D printed consumables was flown from Wilhelmsen’s onshore 3D printing micro-factory.

Successful Drone Trial with 3D Printed Consumables

3D printed consumables
Above: Airbus starts parcel drone trials for shore-to-ship deliveries/Image Credit: Airbus

The trials were carried out at Marina South Pier in Singapore where the drone was lifted off from Wilhelmsen’s onshore 3D printing micro-factory and flown to the Swire Pacific Offshore’s Anchor Handling Tug Supply vessel ‘M/V Pacific Centurion’.

The drone covered a distance of 1.5 km from the shoreline of Singapore’s Marina South Pier. It carried 1.5 kilograms of payload consisting of 3D printed consumables. The drone landed on the vessel without any hitch and returned to base in just 10 minutes. It navigated autonomously along pre-determined ‘aerial-corridors’ in its 1.5km flight to Eastern Working Anchorage.

Such small drone delivery trials from tugboat to ship have already been conducted before by a number of shipping companies and service providers, but a shore-to-ship delivery of this range and scope has never been explored, prior to this trial.

3D printed consumables
Above: Wilhelmsen Ships agent with drone on Swire Pacific offshore vessel/Image Credit: Wilhelmsen Ships Services

Expressing his excitement at the successful flight, Airbus’ Skyways lead, Leo Jeoh shared, “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.”

He continued, “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.”

Marius Johansen, Vice President Commercial, Ships Agency at Wilhelmsen Ships Services, also expressed his delight on the successful trial by saying, “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 project over the past two years was not misplaced.”

Talking about the numerous applications of this project, he added, “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 the unmanned aircraft systems, are 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.”

Airbus & Wilhelmsen Ships Services Collaboration

3D printed consumables
Above: Airbus and Wilhelmsen Ships Services signed an agreement in 2018/Image Credit: Airbus

In June 2018, Airbus and Wilhelmsen Ships Services signed an agreement aimed at collaboratively developing an end-to-end unmanned and autonomous aircraft system for safe and simple shore-to-ship deliveries. The collaboration leverages Airbus’ expertise in aeronautical vertical lift solutions and Wilhelmsen’s wealth of experience in ship agency services.

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.

The current trials will continue for shore-to-ship deliveries only for a distance of 1.5km from the pier. Once these are deemed as operationally safe, and as a part of future extension of the services, the flight range will be extended to 3kms from the pier.


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