Airbus Skyways drone carries out world’s first shore-to-ship deliveries 

Engineers at Airbus have demonstrated the use a drone to carry and deliver payloads from a port to vessels anchored out at sea.

Airbus Skyways drone
The Skyways drone was used to deliver components to a vessel 1.5km out at sea. Image: Airbus

The trial, which Airbus said marks the first time drone technology has been deployed in real port conditions, used the firm’s Skyways parcel delivery drone to carry 1.5kg of 3D printed components from Singapore’s Marin South Pier to a vessel anchored 1.5km off the coast. The entire flight took ten minutes.

During the ongoing trials, which are being carried out in partnership with maritime logistics firm Wilhelmsen Ships Services, the drone will lift off from the pier with payloads of up to 4kg, and navigate autonomously along pre-determined ‘aerial corridors’ to vessels as far as 3km from the coast.

Airbus and Wilhelmsen signed an agreement in June 2018 to drive the development of an end-to-end unmanned aircraft system for safe shore-to-ship deliveries.

Commenting on the achievement 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.”

It’s thought that the use of unmanned aircraft systems in the maritime industry could speed up deliveries by up to six times, lowering delivery costs by up to 90 per cent, reducing carbon footprint, and significantly mitigating risks of accidents associated with launch-boat deliveries.

Airbus Skyways drone

Marius Johansen, VP Commercial, Ships Agency at Wilhelmsen Ships Services, said that the trial has given his industry a valuable new tool. “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 said.

Initially developed for use in dense urban environments, the Skyways drone Skyway completed its first demonstration flight in Feb 2018 at the National University of Singapore when it successfully collected and delivered a parcel automatically . These urban trials are now set to continue said Airbus.

Skyways is one of a number of innovative Urban Air Mobility projects currently being researched at Airbus. These also include the Racer high-speed helicopter demonstrator, as well as the Vahana and CityAirbus autonomous flying vehicle concepts.