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WSS lifts off with Airbus

(Posted on 08/06/18)

Pairing Wilhelmsen’s extensive ships agency expertise and robust safety standards, with Airbus' expertise in aeronautical vertical lift solutions, the Agency by Air project is bringing shore-to-ship drone delivery to one of the busiest ports in the world, Singapore.

With the largest Ships Agency network in the world, Wilhelmsen Ships Service provides maritime logistics and port services in 2,200 ports worldwide.

Launching at Singapore port’s Marina South Pier in quarter three 2018, Wilhelmsen Ships Service and Airbus will be piloting the delivery of spare parts, documents, water test kits and 3D printed consumables via Airbus’ Skyways unmanned air system (UAS) to vessels at anchorage.

With the signing of an MOU at maritime trade show Posidonia, 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 commercialisation of UAS for maritime deliveries use cases.

Marking the very first time, the viability of autonomous drone delivery to vessels has been put to the test in hectic, real-world port conditions, Marius Johansen, VP Commercial, Ships Agency at Wilhelmsen Ships Service is confident with Airbus now onboard his agency team’s long-term drone delivery aspirations will be fulfilled. 

“We are absolutely thrilled to be working with a forward thinking, industry leader like Airbus. When we announced last year that we were pursuing drone delivery, we were greeted with a fair amount of scepticism, but our collaboration with Airbus, shows we really do mean business”.

Confident drones will become a game changer in the agency and logistics business in the not too distant future, he adds.

“As an outward looking company, eager to utilise technology to help improve our customers’ experiences, drone delivery is a perfect fit for our agency business. 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. 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”.

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.

Commenting on their partnership, Airbus’ Skyways lead Leo Jeoh said, “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 centre and a delivery centre will be set up at the pier to facilitate the deliveries, with an initial delivery range of up to 3km 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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