Airbus' Skyways drone demonstrates capabilities during shore-to-ship trials in Singapore



Airbus has announced that it has started shore-to-ship trials in Singapore using its Skyways parcel delivery drone.

According to Airbus, this is the first time that UAS technology has been utilized in real port conditions to deliver small, time-critical maritime essentials to working vessels at anchorage.

“We are thrilled to launch the first trial of its kind in the maritime world,” says Airbus’ Skyways lead, Leo Jeoh.

“Today’s accomplishment is a culmination of months of intense preparation by our dedicated team, and the strong collaboration with our partner, as we pursue a new terrain in the maritime industry.”

The first shore-to-ship delivery flight was made to the Swire Pacific Offshore’s Anchor Handling Tug Supply vessel ‘M/V Pacific Centurion,” 1.5 kilometers from the shoreline of Singapore’s Marina South Pier.

Carrying 1.5 kilograms of 3D printed consumables, the UAS safely landed on the ship deck, deposited its cargo to the shipmaster, and returned to its base. The entire flight was completed within 10 minutes.

To conduct these trials, Airbus has partnered with maritime logistics and port services company, Wilhelmsen Ships Services. Airbus notes that during the trials, its Skyways UAS will lift off from the pier with a payload capability of up to four kilograms, and navigate autonomously along pre-determined ‘aerial corridors’ to vessels as far as three kilometers from the coast.

“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,” says Marius Johansen, vice president Commercial, Ships Agency at Wilhelmsen Ships Services.

“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.”

In June 2018, Airbus and Wilhelmsen Ships Services signed an agreement to develop an end-to-end UAS for safe shore-to-ship deliveries. The collaboration combines Airbus’ expertise in aeronautical vertical lift technologies with Wilhelmsen’s experience in ship agency services.

Through the facilitation of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, a landing platform and control center were established at the Marina South Pier in Nov. 2018. The maritime agency also designated anchorages for vessels to anchor off the pier for the trials, while the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore worked with Airbus and Wilhelmsen to make sure the trials were conducted safely.

Airbus describes Skyways as an “experimental project aimed at establishing seamless multi-modal transportation networks in smart cities.” Through Skyways, Airbus wants to develop an unmanned airborne infrastructure platform, and address the sustainability and efficiency of UAS in large urban and maritime environments.

Building off the success of the shore-to-ship trials in Singapore, Skyways will soon begin another trial phase delivering air parcels autonomously in an urban environment at the National University of Singapore.