SINGAPORE - An area near Marina South Pier has now been designated as a space for maritime drone fliers to test their wares, including by delivering 3D-printed shipping parts to vessels docked near Singapore's shores.
The country's first Maritime Drone Estate, launched as part of Singapore Maritime Week this week, puts the country in the company of Belgium and Canada, which also use drones to deliver previously manual services.
Industry players on Tuesday (April 20) said this will be safer for workers as they will no longer have to climb steep stairs to deliver goods or conduct inspections on ships, be more efficient, and also make the industry's work more environmentally sustainable.
For instance, where previously small boats took nearly an hour for round trips on their missions on ships berthed further ashore, drones can do this in less than 15 minutes, saving on maritime fuel costs and reducing pollution.
Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport Chee Hong Tat said the space was two years in the making.
He said: "The drone estate's location at Marina South is ideal as it is next to the port waters and near active anchorages used by thousands of vessels annually."
A total of 11 industry players, including Airbus, Garuda Robotics, ST Engineering and M1, were at the launch.
To date, nine companies have conducted trials at the drone estate.
During the pandemic, vitamins and food were delivered by drones to crew on ships that had their schedules delayed.
Integral to all these is Nova Systems, which developed a traffic system that allows multiple drones to take off in the same space at the same time.
Asia managing director Ryan Lee said trials of up to three simultaneous flights have been conducted, and that Nova System's software can track up to 500 drones in a simulated environment.
Industry players hope a bigger, more permanent space will be carved out for their work, also at Marina South Pier, and their proposals are pending approval from the authorities.