Airbus launches world’s first shore-to-ship drone trials

Airbus launches world’s first shore-to-ship drone trials

Airbus has begun shore-to-ship trials of its Skyways delivery drone in Singapore - the first time drone technology has been deployed in a real port environment, the aerospace giant is claiming.

On its maiden flight the Skyways drone, carrying 1.5kg of 3D printed consumables, landed safely on the deck of tug supply vessel MV Pacific Centurion, 1.5km from the shoreline of Singapore’s Marina South, before swiftly returning to its base, with the entire flight taking less than ten minutes.

During the trials, Airbus’ Skyways drone will lift off from the pier with a payload capability of up to 4 kg, and navigate autonomously along pre-determined ‘aerial corridors’ to vessels as far as 3km from the coast. 

The trials are being carried out in conjunction with maritime logistics and port services company Wilhelmsen Ships Services. The partnership marries Airbus’ expertise in aeronautical vertical lift solutions and Wilhelmsen’s experience in ship agency services.

Airbus’ Skyways lead, Leo Jeoh said: “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 a new terrain in the maritime industry.”

“We are also happy to be taking a step forward for Airbus’ urban air mobility endeavour, as we continue to explore and seek better understanding of what it takes to fly safe and reliable autonomous flying vehicles safely,” he added.

“The now proven, seamless operation of drone deliveries from shore to ship, in one of the world’s busiest ports proves the hard work, investment and faith we, and indeed our partners, placed in the Agency by Air project over the past two years was not misplaced,” said Marius Johansen, Vice President Commercial, Ships Agency at Wilhelmsen Ships Services.

“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 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,” he added.

Airbus said the use of unmanned aircraft systems in the maritime industry paves the way for possible enlargement of existing ship agency services’ portfolio, speeding up deliveries by up to six times, lowering delivery costs by up to 90%, reducing carbon footprint, and significantly mitigating risks of accidents associated with launch-boat deliveries.

Aimed at establishing multimodal transportation networks in smart cities, Skyways is about to commence another trial phase delivering air parcels autonomously in an urban environment, at the National University of Singapore.

Airbus generated revenues of €64 billion in 2018 and currently employs a workforce of around 134,000.