Wilhelmsen has partnered with Airbus to deliver ship supplies via drone in a pilot scheme at the Port of Singapore in the third quarter of this year.
The companies signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) during the Posidonia maritime trade show in Athens this week. The joint trial aims to investigate the potential deployment of unmanned air systems (UAS) for the delivery of spare parts, documents and 3D printed consumables to vessels at anchorage.
“Part of our standard husbandry services, we organize the delivery of essential spares, medical supplies and cash to master via launch boat day in and day out all over the world,” explains Marius Johansen, VP commercial, ships agency at Wilhelmsen Ships Service. “However, delivery by drone is much more cost effective, quicker, and frankly safer for all involved.”
The project comes after more than a year of planning and collaboration between Wilhelmsen Ships Service and Airbus, as well as the Singapore Maritime Port Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. Marking the first time autonomous drone delivery has been tested in real-world port conditions, the initial pilot scheme will last two weeks.
Wilhelmsen is tasked with gaining relevant port approvals and securing customers for the service, while Airbus will handle aviation approvals and the operation of the UAS and its control systems.
A command centre and a delivery centre will be set up at the pier in Singapore’s eastern anchorage to facilitate 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 a greater number of anchorage vessels.
According to a statement from Wilhelmsen, the use of drones has the potential to lower shore-to-ship delivery costs by up to 90 per cent.