13 mar 2019

Airbus and Wilhelmsen have completed what they believe is the world’s first commercial shore-to-ship delivery for ship’s agency services. The team has tested its “Skyways” system in Singapore before, but this event marked the start of its commercial trial operations. The Airbus-built drone took off from the Marina South Pier and flew out to the anchor handler Pacific Centurion, owned by Swire Pacific, to deliver a small three-pound package of goods.

Wilhelmsen believes that drones offer a more cost effective, quicker and safer means of delivering small high-priority items to vessels, a task that has historically been entrusted to small harbor launches. “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. Modern technology such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), is 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,” said Marius Johansen, VP Commercial for Wilhelmsen Ships Agency.

The project is the result of a joint effort between Airbus, Wilhelmsen and Singaporean authorities. Wilhelmsen was tasked with setting up the necessary maritime and port operations, and gaining approvals from the port. Airbus provided the overall Skyways system architect and provider, contributing its expertise in vertical lift systems to develop the drone for shore-to-ship deliveries.

“We are thrilled to launch the first trial of its kind in the maritime world. 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 new terrain in the maritime industry,” says Leo Jeoh, Airbus Skyways Lead.

In appearance, the Skyways unit is much like a conventional heavy-lift drone, like the models sold to the film industry. Airbus’ proprietary model differs in its autonomy system, which is designed to work in concert with a network of shore side drop-box locations. These are similar to Amazon lockers, but with robotic arms conducting the loading and package handling work.

Norwegian drone builder Griff Aviation is working on a much larger shore-to-ship delivery system for the offshore sector, with support from the Research Council of Norway, Olympic Subsea and the Northern Research Institute (Norut). Griff is best known for its Griff 300 units, which are designed for payloads of up to 500 pounds – enough capacity for engine spares, pumps or other large parts. Norut’s engineers have experience with autonomous systems, and the consortium says that adding automated capabilities to the platform will be essential in order to manage take-off and landing on the deck of an offshore vessel at sea.

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