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Singapore Welcomes New Player in Shore-to-Ship Drone Deliveries

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ST Engineering's DroNet drone prototype (ST Engineering)

Published Feb 21, 2022 12:01 AM by The Maritime Executive

A new consortium of three companies will test out drone services for shore-to-ship parcel delivery for ships at anchor in Singapore. It is the latest in a string of similar projects at the port, which has become a go-to destination for maritime drone testing. 

Singapore has one of the world's busiest anchorages, and it has hosted more shore-to-ship drone trials than perhaps any other seaport. Wilhelmsen Ship Service and Airbus ran flight tests in Singapore in 2019, and Singaporean startup F-drones began conducting tests in partnership with Eastern Pacific Shipping the same year. Last year, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore launched a designated area for maritime drone testing, and it reports that nine companies have already conducted various trials at the site. 

The latest drone consortium - ST Engineering, Sumitomo Corporation and Skyports - plans to try out ship-to-shore drone deliveries over the course of a nine-month trial program, handling parcel payloads of up to 10 kilos. After testing with an early customer, they will determine whether to commercialize the service. ST Engineering has developed the first drone approved for use in beyond line of sight operations in Singapore, which will allow it to reach further out into anchorage areas beyond sight of shore. 

The consortium believes that drone operations can cut response times and speed up turnaround for shore-to-ship delivery, in addition to reducing logistics costs. Delivery by drone has the potential to lower costs by up to 90 percent, remove safety risks and cut down on transit time. It typically takes an hour for boats to make a journey out to a vessel in Singapore's anchorage area, but drone flights can be completed in less than 15 minutes.

“UA systems have evolved rapidly in recent years to emerge as safe and robust alternatives to traditionally labor- and time-intensive missions,” said Teong Soo Soon, ST Engineering VP & Head of UA Systems.