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Tech that Flies High

Since Raffles step foot on Singapore’s sunny shores, the island was destined to be a maritime hub. As one of the key drivers of the local economy, the government has made special efforts to preserve Singapore’s premier status within the global industry. The way forward for the aspiring Smart Nation has undoubtedly been through the help technology can provide. Automation and digitalisation are indispensable for the drive.

In November last year, the Ministry of Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore issued a Call-For-Proposal (CFP) for unmanned aviation projects. The aim of the project was to tap on the fast-growing Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) sector. UAS is more popularly known as a drone. Of the applicants who responded to the CFP, four were shortlisted to run a trial of their proposals. It was the Norwegian company who emerged victorious in bagging government support for its innovative solution.

Drone: On

For the layman who’s only experience of drones is limited to stunning aerial photography, the implications of the technology might be lost. In the CFP, the government agencies noted that UAS has a host of benefits to offer Singapore. Already, UAS has been employed in Singapore’s urban redevelopment efforts. Additionally, the innovation has the potential to aid CAAS in performing its regulatory roles.

Proposals forwarded were impressive. These solutions included aggregate drone services for the maritime sector, a connected urban airspace management for unmanned aircraft, and using an unmanned aerial vehicle for safe and effective package deliveries in the urban environment. The winning solution came from a leading Norwegian company within the maritime industry. Outlined in their solution is the development of UAS for the Singapore maritime service deliveries. UAS would be harnessed for the improvement of safety, productivity and reactivity.

Up to 50% of the Norwegian shipping company’s proposal costs will be funded by the Singapore government. The funding is capped at SGD 1.5 million. The Company must complete the proposed solution in a time span of two years.

The call for projects were in line with the air transport Industry Transformation Map. The Map lists innovation, productivity, enterprise and job and skill creation as the four strategies needed for transformation.

Flights of Fancy

According to the private company’s forwarded solution, UAS for maritime purposes are still in its infancy. Much has yet to be overcome in terms of regulations and ensuring the technology is able to withstand the maritime environmental conditions. The Norwegian company’s innovation will be the first time done technology has been used in real port environment circumstances, delivering parcels to docked vessels.

Nevertheless, the drone-to-ship technology it will embark on will revolutionise traditional maritime operations. The technology is a step up from launch boat deliveries. UAS can offer a faster response rate and turnaround time during deliveries. This is set to whittle down shore-to-ship delivery costs by almost 90%. Moreover, the safety hazards associated with launch boat deliveries will be effectively minimised.

By using drones to deliver parcels, complementary technological solutions can be explored. These include ship localisation, precision landing, payload release system, 4G/LTE communications, onshore parcel station, and an automated package delivery.

The Sky’s the Limit

The public-private partnership will have immeasurable benefits for Singapore’s positioning as a global maritime trade hub. The Singapore government has been relentless in pumping in money because it realises the sector is capital-intensive. By taking the first step, the government is confident that more companies will embark on bold and innovative solutions.

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