Launching at Singapore port’s Marina South Pier, Wilhelmsen Ships Service and Airbus are piloting the delivery of spare parts, documents, water test kits and 3D printed consumables. This is via Airbus’ Skyways unmanned air system (UAS) to vessels at anchorage.
The signing of an MOU was at maritime trade show Posidonia. The Maritime UAS project agreement covers a joint ambition to establish a framework for cooperation between the parties. Most importantly, the aim is to investigate the potential deployment and commercialization of UAS for maritime deliveries use cases.
Therefore, for first time, the viability of autonomous drone delivery to vessels is put to test in real-world port conditions.
Drone is a game changer
Marius Johansen, VP Commercial, Ships Agency at Wilhelmsen Ships Service is confident of fulfilling his agency team’s long-term drone delivery aspirations with Airbus now onboard.
Most noteworthy, drones will become a game changer in the agency and logistics business in the not too distant future.
“Part of our standard husbandry services, we organise the delivery of essential spares, medical supplies and cash to master via launch boat day in and day out all over the world.
“However, delivery by drone is much more cost effective, quicker, and frankly safer for all involved. Costing on average ninety percent less than launch boats, they importantly remove the risks inherently involved with making launch deliveries and also have negligible environmental impact”.
Wilhelmsen is responsible for setting up the necessary maritime and port operations, gaining the relevant approvals from port authorities and securing maritime customers. In contrast, Airbus is taking care of all the corresponding aviation approvals, running and maintenance of the UAS and its control systems.
Shaping the future of shore-to-ship delivery
So, commenting on their partnership, Airbus’ Skyways lead Leo Jeoh said it gives them a unique test bed. Consequently, they can trial, refine and shape the future of shore-to-ship drone technologies. Hence, for them, this is also an opportunity to pioneer the future of UAS in the maritime industry.
Certainly, the partnership involved over a year of planning and close collaboration between Wilhelmsen and Airbus. Moreover, it also involved the Singapore Maritime Port Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.
Initially, the partnership will see an two-week pilot trial with deliveries to ships anchored in Singapore’s eastern anchorage.
There will be a command centre and a delivery centre at the pier to facilitate the deliveries. It will have an initial delivery range of up to 3km from the shoreline. Finally, a second delivery station will be positioned at an open space in Marina South. It will extend delivery coverage to more anchorage vessels.
Agency by Air – Quick Facts
• Airbus and Wilhelmsen signed an MOU in June 2018 to develop an UAS for maritime deliveries
• Test-project will begin in Singapore in Q3
• Unmanned autonomous drone deliveries enable a reduction in manpower and increased productivity compared to launch boat deliveries
• Quicker response rate and turnaround time of up to 6X. Has potential to lower shore-to-ship delivery costs by up to 90%