Wilhelmsen partners with Airbus on shore-to-ship drone delivery

JUNE 5, 2018 — Wilhelmsen Ships Service is partnering with Airbus to shore-to-ship drone delivery to one of the busiest ports in the world, Singapore.

Launching at Singapore port's Marina South Pier in third quarter 2018, the Agency by Air project will pilot the delivery of spare parts, documents, water test kits and 3D printed consumables via Airbus' Skyways unmanned air system (UAS) to vessels at anchorage.

Under the terms of an MOU signed at this week's Posidonia event in Athens, the Maritime UAS project agreement covers a joint ambition to establish a framework for cooperation between the parties, with the aim of investigating the potential deployment and commercialization of UAS for maritime deliveries use cases.

"We are absolutely thrilled to be working with a forward thinking, industry leader like Airbus," says Marius Johansen, VP Commercial, Ships Agency at Wilhelmsen Ships Service. "When we announced last year that we were pursuing drone delivery, we were greeted with a fair amount of skepticism, but our collaboration with Airbus, shows we really do mean business."

Johansen says drone delivery is "a perfect fit for our agency business."

"As part of our standard husbandry services, we organise the delivery of essential spares, medical supplies and cash to master via launch boat day in and day out all over the world," he says." However, 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."

Agency by air

With Wilhelmsen Ships Service tasked with setting up the necessary maritime and port operations, gaining the relevant approvals from port authorities and securing maritime customers, Airbus will take care of all the corresponding aviation approvals, and the running and maintenance of the UAS and its control systems.

Airbus' Skyways lead Leo Jeoh says, "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. This also serves as an exciting opportunity to bring together the strong domain expertise of both Airbus and Wilhelmsen, to pioneer the future of UAS in the maritime industry."

Culminating over a year of planning and close collaboration between Wilhelmsen Ships Service and Airbus, involving the Singapore Maritime Port Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, the partnership will first see an initial two-week pilot trial with deliveries to ships anchored in Singapore's eastern anchorage.

A command center and a delivery center will be set up at the pier to facilitate the deliveries, with an initial delivery range of up to 3 km from the shoreline. A second delivery station will be positioned at an open space in Marina South to extend delivery coverage to more anchorage vessels.

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