Sunday, July 25, 2021

Infrastructure challenge for drone delivery at scale: the Skyports solution

 by Sophia Constant

The global drone delivery market is expected to witness substantial growth over the next decade. Skyports’ Head of Asia Pacific Yun Yuan Tay looks at the infrastructure needed and presents the Skyports ground solution to enable high-volume, high-frequency cargo drone services.

Cargo drones are already playing an important role today in supply chains to deliver urgent and high value goods such as medical supplies The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the indispensable function that drone deliveries can play in serving poorly connected communities. The drones being used for commercial delivery worldwide is quickly increasing in numbers and complexity, but the enabling infrastructure to support high volume drone delivery is currently lacking.

As an unmanned aircraft infrastructure provider that also provides a drone delivery service, Skyports fully appreciates the infrastructure required to support safe and efficient unmanned aircraft flight operations at scale. Our drone logistics arm, “Delivery by Skyports”, provides cargo drone delivery solutions for the medical, logistics and e-commerce sectors in particular. Most recently, we have been providing drone deliveries for the National Health Service (NHS) and Royal Mail in the UK.

Today, most drone delivery operators fly their vehicles with limited or no infrastructure support. As demand for drone delivery grows, both in terms of volume and payload size, there will be a need for permanent cargo drone ports with material handling facilities, maintenance workshops and other support facilities to enable permanent, safe and efficient drone delivery operations at scale.

Skyport.Cargo

To meet the needs of the growing drone delivery industry, Skyports has designed a cargo drone port that is self-sufficient equipped with the latest best-in-class technology. Skyport.Cargo will be able to support a high volume of drone delivery flights on a daily basis and accommodate drones of various sizes – from the small drones used today to transport small, just-in-time high value cargo to larger drones that can carry payload of more than 100kg for heavy duty missions.

The airfield is highly efficient with dedicated loading and pre-flight areas so that the take-off and landings can be operated safely with maximum efficiency. Skyport.Cargo will also have onsite charging, maintenance and storage facilities, creating a one-stop shop for drone delivery operators.

Landside, there will be a highly efficient material handling warehouse which includes dedicated loading / unloading bays, distribution and sorting facilities and even cold chain facilities.

Singapore Skyport.Cargo
Skyport.Cargo airfield including cargo drones operated by Skyports ready for take off

The heart of the port will be the Skyports Flight Control Centre, an operator-agnostic workstation. We will provide operators with highly reliable telemetry information, on-site communications equipment and weather stations that they may use for complete situational awareness and total control of their flight operations.

Singapore Maritime Drone Estate use case

Recently Skyports participated in the opening ceremony of the Maritime Drone Estate (MDE) in Singapore. Located near the Marina South Pier with close proximity to the anchorages, this site was set up by the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore to facilitate research and development for maritime drone operations in Singapore.

Today, more than 130,000 ships annually call at Singapore with approximately 1,000 ships anchored off its coast at any point in time. These ships today currently rely on traditional launch boats to shuttle supplies, spare parts, oil samples and other urgent packages to and from the ship to shore. This represents a significant opportunity for any drone operators to offer more efficient and cost-effective shore-to-ship deliveries as well as remote inspections of ships by drones. In the longer term as technology matures, there is also an opportunity to launch cargo drone delivery from Singapore to as far as the islands south of Singapore such as Bintan or Batam.

As the level of interest and demand grows on this site, Skyport.Cargo will be able to serve the infrastructure needs of these drone operators to operate safely and efficiently out of the MDE site and unlock the potential of maritime drone operations in Singapore.

Skyports strategic play in Asia Pacific and beyond

Our approach to cargo vertiport infrastructure in Singapore is the same as that of our passenger vertiport offering. Skyports aims to leverage Singapore as a base to initiate commercial operations in the wider region as well as globally. We continue to see Singapore as an ideal location to launch initial drone and air taxi operations. Singapore has established itself as a leader in deploying smart and sustainable technologies with its Smart Nation Initiative and more recently announced Green Plan 2030. This coordinated effort by the various government agencies will no doubt continue to attract interests of the AAM industry to perform research and development as well as launch commercial operations here in Singapore.

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