Wilhelmsen Ships Service and global aeronautics company Airbus this week launched a pilot project trialing the world’s first shore-to-ship drone delivery in real-time port conditions at the port of Singapore.
Lifting off from Singapore’s Marina South Pier, the maiden shore-to-ship delivery flight was made to the Swire Pacific Offshore’s ATHS vessel Pacific Centurion located 1.5km away at Eastern Working Anchorage.
The drone was carrying a 1.5 kg package of 3D printed consumables, which it delivered to the deck of the anchor handling tug without a hitch before returning to its base. The entire delivery, from take-off to landing back at base, took just ten minutes.
Though small drone delivery trials from tugboat to ship have been conducted before by a number of shipping companies and service providers, shore-to-ship delivery of this range and scope has never been explored, prior to this trial, Wilhelmsen says.
“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 drone delivery project over the past two years was not misplaced,” said Marius Johansen, VP Commercial, Wilhelmsen Ships Agency.
Airbus and Wilhelmsen Ships Services signed an agreement in June 2018 to drive the development of an end-to-end unmanned aircraft system for safe shore-to-ship deliveries. The project has received support from the Port Authority of Singapore, which has provided some funding for the project.
The use of unmanned aircraft systems in the maritime industry could speed up ship deliveries by up to six times, lowering delivery costs by up to 90%, reducing carbon footprint, and significantly mitigating risks of accidents associated with launch-boat deliveries.
Wilhelmsen says the on-going pilot project will, for now, focus on offshore supply vessels at anchorage 1.5km from the pier using a pre-determined ‘aerial-corridor.’ But more testing could extend the flight range gradually to as far as 3km from shore.
“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,” Johansen added.