Wilhelmsen Ships Service has announced plans to launch a large scale pilot program exploring use of drones to deliver vital supplies to ships in harbors and ports around the world.
WSS described the project as a potentially seismic shift in the way ships agents can support their customers by eliminating the need for launch boats to deliver essentials to vessels at anchorage, along with cutting delivery times.
“Whether it is deliveries of critical documents or vital medical supplies, tank inspections, or monitoring cargo and stockpile levels, we believe semi-autonomous drone flights can support and further enhance what our ships agency team can offer our customers,” explains Marius Johansen, VP Business Solutions & Marketing, WSS Ships Agency.
Johansen added that the use of drones would also slash costs. Launch vessels typically cost around $1500 on average, but with the use of drones, he suggests delivery would eventually come down to just $150.
“Relied upon by owners, operators, vessels and crew to get spare parts, medicine, documents, or cash to master where it needs to be at moment’s notice, drone delivery is a natural extension of our existing agency service portfolio,” Johansen added.
WSS plans to launch the pilot program this year in one of the world’s busiest ports, without elaborating on where exactly it will be offered.
“Launching a large scale working pilot project in one of the world’s busiest ports in 2017, in spite of the complexity of global aviation rules and restrictions placed on unmanned aerial vehicles, for WSS drone delivery is very much here to stay,” WSS said in a press release.
The program is not the first time drones have been considered for drone delivery to ships at sea. You may recall, in 2016 Maersk Tankers claimed the first drone delivery to a vessel at sea with the delivery of a small package to one its tankers in Denmark.