A new consortium in Singapore aims to use drones to provide shore-to-ship parcel delivery services. The unmanned aircrafts (UA) will be part of a pilot to deliver maritime essentials to vessels at anchorage.

Comprising ST Engineering, Sumitomo, and Skyports, the consortium would work with key customers in maritime with the aim to establish a UA delivery network able to deliver parcels weighing up to 7kg.

The pilot was slated to run over nine months, ST Engineering said in a statement, noting that the trial would tap its DropNet UA systems.  According to the Singapore engineering company, DropNet could be tailored for urban living environment as well as customised for military applications. The autonomous system supports technologies such as facial recognition and visual imaging, and provides real-time data analytics.

ST Engineering said it would work with Skyports to conduct Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flight operations, while Sumitomo would provide vertical-specific support such as its own fleet of vessels. All three organisations would tap their respective maritime network to run business development activities.

ST Engineering added it had been testing autonomous applications to enable BVLOS UA operations for shore-to-ship delivery, working with local regulators and industry partners. These included the initial development of the UA shore-to-ship parcel delivery, powered by DropNet, that received funding support from Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and involved Wilhelmsen Ships Service. The latter’s partnership enhanced the commercialisation and operational aspects of the application.

ST Engineering said the use of UA systems could significantly cut response time and increase turnaround speed for shore-to-ship delivery, compared to traditional deliveries by boats. Autonomous deliveries also reduced carbon emissions and enabled the maritime industry to operate more sustainably, it added.

ST Engineering’s vice president and head of UA systems Teong Soo Soon said: “UA Systems have evolved rapidly in recent years to emerge as safe and robust alternatives to traditionally labour- and time-intensive missions. We look forward to being a strong enabler for customers that wish to leverage unmanned technology to inject higher efficiency and sustainability into their operations.”

Teong noted that the pilot was the result of “close to two years” of research and development efforts in developing the system.

Skyports’ Asia-Pacific head of business development and operations Sanjay Suresh said: “As home to one of the busiest ports in the world, Singapore is the ideal setting in which to demonstrate to customers the potential for UA to transform maritime logistics, by moving essential supplies in a more cost-effective and sustainable way.”

Singapore in 2019 set aside S$60 million to nurture local startups and drive the development of technology to improve operational efficiency and sustainability in the maritime industry. The  investment aimed to establish new business models and technology that could enhance operations, safety, and sustainability across different areas within the sector, including shipping, port logistics, port operations, and maritime services.


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