Thumbs up for Singapore drone tests
17 / 02 / 2016
Singapore will be the launch pad for test trials of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or drones, for last mile delivery.
Airbus Helicopters and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to conduct UAS proof-of-concept trials, named the Skyways Project.
Skyways, said the project team, aims to develop an “airborne infrastructure solution to address the sustainability and efficiency of parcel delivery business in large urban environments or last mile delivery”.
Drone technology for last mile deliveries saw Swiss Post and Swiss WorldCargo launch a project in July 2015 to test the commercial possibilities of unmanned delivery logistics in partnership with drone-maker Matternet. Retail giant Amazon and DHL are also experimenting, separately, with drone technology.
The Singapore programme will establish “safe and secure aerial corridors, unmanned aircraft (UA), operation management system of the UA fleet, automated parcel stations, as well as an overall communication system”.
The UAS trials will be implemented in two phases, the first of which sees Airbus working with the National University of Singapore (NUS) on planning and development.
A parcel stations network on NUS campus will enable users to send important and urgent items such as documents via an UAS to other parts of the campus. It will also serve as a “supply and distribution interface” for suppliers across Singapore to deliver their goods via UAS to customers across the NUS campus.
The project may then extend to the delivery of goods, such as urgent medicine, oil samples and spare electronic parts from a parcel station to ships anchored at bay around Singapore, a major maritime hub.
Airbus intends to set up a special purpose company in Singapore to conduct the Skyways Project and to prepare for the next steps.
Kevin Shum, director-general of CAAS, said: “We need to prepare for the greater use of unmanned aircraft in our urban environment to help address the new and future needs of our society.
“We want to facilitate their use by industry and the public sector, and also hobbyists, but we must at the same time ensure that the regulatory regime keeps apace with these changes to enable such uses, whilst ensuring public and aviation safety and security.”
Jean-Brice Dumont, executive vice-president, engineering, Airbus Helicopters, noted: “Airbus Helicopters’ expertise in vertical lift solutions puts us in the best position to turn UAS into a business reality while ensuring their safe operation in dense urban environments.
“Although many UAS services are already common today, efficient and reliable applications in the logistics industry are still in their early stages.”
He added: “Airbus strongly believes in the viability of the ‘Skyways’ project which will help turn consumer services unimagined only a decade ago into a reality very soon.”
Picture L-R: Jean-Brice Dumont, Executive Vice-President, Engineering, Airbus Helicopters; Tom Enders, Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Group; Pang Kin Keong, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Transport, Singapore and Kevin Shum, Director-General of CAAS.