Space launched for drone tests, including deliveries to vessels offshore

Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport Chee Hong Tat at the Maritime Drone Estate near Marina South Pier yesterday as a drone took off to deliver a package to a ship anchored offshore. The new space will enable maritime drone flie
Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport Chee Hong Tat at the Maritime Drone Estate near Marina South Pier yesterday as a drone took off to deliver a package to a ship anchored offshore. The new space will enable maritime drone fliers to test their wares, including by making such deliveries. ST PHOTOS: GAVIN FOO
Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport Chee Hong Tat at the Maritime Drone Estate near Marina South Pier yesterday as a drone took off to deliver a package to a ship anchored offshore. The new space will enable maritime drone flie
Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport Chee Hong Tat at the Maritime Drone Estate near Marina South Pier yesterday as a drone took off to deliver a package to a ship anchored offshore. The new space will enable maritime drone fliers (above) to test their wares, including by making such deliveries. ST PHOTOS: GAVIN FOO

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 the current Singapore Maritime Week, puts it in the company of Belgium and Canada, which are also looking to use drones to replace previously manual services.

Industry players said this is safer as workers will no longer have to climb steep stairs to deliver goods or conduct inspections on ships.

It is also efficient and makes the industry's work more environmentally sustainable.

For instance, where previously small boats could take nearly an hour for round trips to ships berthed farther 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. "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.

Integral to all these is the Australia-headquartered Nova Systems, which developed a traffic system that allows multiple drones to take off in the same space at the same time.

Mr Ryan Lee, its managing director for Asia, said trials of up to three simultaneous flights have been conducted, and Nova Systems' 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 in Marina South.

Their proposals are pending approval from the authorities.

Clement Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2021, with the headline 'Space launched for drone tests, including deliveries to vessels offshore'. Subscribe