In particular, Skyways is an experimental project aimed at developing a safe and commercially viable aerial unmanned delivery system for use in dense urban cities in its first trial phase. The project is being led by a team in Singapore, where plans are progressing towards the launch of a first trial system at the National University of Singapore in July.

The MoU signature with Wilhelmsen paves the way for the start of a second trial phase which will cover the delivery of goods from the Singapore coast to ships anchored at bay – commonly known as ‘shore-to-ship’.

The initial two-week shore-to-ship pilot trial will begin in the third quarter of 2018, delivering parcels to vessels anchored off the coast of Singapore. Command and delivery centres will be set up at the pier to facilitate the deliveries, with an initial delivery range of up to 3km from the shoreline.  A second delivery station will be positioned at an open space in Marina South to extend delivery coverage to more anchored vessels.

Under the MoU, Airbus is the Skyways system architect and provider, to develop the UAS for shore-to-ship deliveries. The UAS is a system-of-systems that includes aviation-standard UAVs, ground control stations, air navigation systems, and operational and maintenance procedures. In its part, Wilhelmsen will provide customer services, and ensure compliance of the UAS operations with safety and security regulations.

Airbus’ Skyways lead, Leo Jeoh, said:

This collaboration with Wilhelmsen, the first of its kind in the region, gives us a unique test bed where we can trial, refine and shape the future of shore-to-ship drone technologies.

While drones have already been mooted as one way to deliver items on shore and at sea, the use of UAS in the maritime industry shapes the possibility to enlarge existing ship agency services’ portfolio, increase productivity by up to six times, lower delivery costs by up to 90%, reduce carbon footprint, and significantly mitigate risks of accidents associated with launch-boat deliveries.

Marius Johansen, VP Commercial, Ships Agency at Wilhelmsen Ships Service, said:

...Delivery by drone is much more cost effective, quicker, and frankly safer for all involved. Costing on average ninety percent less than launch boats, they importantly remove the risks inherently involved with making launch deliveries and also have negligible environmental impact.