Safe and reliable urban air delivery
is a reality not too distant into the future.
Helicopters (Airbus) has successfully completed its first Skyways drone flight
demonstration at the National University of Singapore (NUS), according to its press
release issued on Feb 8.
Skyways project is an experimental
project that aims at developing a safe and economically viable aerial unmanned
parcel delivery system for use in dense urban environments. It is one of the
innovative Urban Air Mobility projects by Airbus.
The project is now at an
advanced stage, given Airbus Helicopters’ capabilities in drone platforms and
its concept of future parcel delivery. The research and development (R&D) phase
is progressing well, with equipment and facilities installed at the NUS campus.
The concept of future
parcel delivery involves systems and structures that allow drones to land, dock
with secure structures, discharge or take on payloads, and then fly off to
As Mr Alex Tan, Chief
Information Officer of Singapore Post (SingPost) Group, shared, an ecosystem of
parcel lockers and autonomous vehicles will be a key piece in solving the
complex challenge of urban logistics.
According to a report by Straits Times, each Skyways drone has
eight motorised rotors and the drone can fly even if half of them are out of
action. The drones will not be flown in bad weather conditions such as heavy
thunderstorms and strong winds.
In the flight
demonstration, the Skyways drone took off from its dedicated maintenance centre
and landed on the roof of a specially designed parcel station where a parcel
was automatically loaded via a robotic arm. Once successfully loaded with the
parcel, the Skyways drone took off again and returned to land, demonstrating
its automatic unloading capability.
According to Mr Kevin
Shum, Director-General of Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), “the
Skyways project is an important innovation for the aviation industry. CAAS has
been working closely with Airbus on the project, with an emphasis on
co-developing systems and rules to ensure that such aircraft can operate in an
urban environment safely and optimally. For Singapore, this project will help
to develop innovative rules to support the development of the unmanned aircraft
industry in Singapore.”
The progress is also the
result of a very strong partnership among stakeholders. This inaugural flight
demonstration follows the launch of the experimental project with the Civil
Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) in February 2016 to develop an urban
unmanned air system to address the safety, efficiency, and sustainability of
the air delivery business in cities such as Singapore.
Subsequently, in April
2017, Singapore Post (SingPost) joined the collaboration to become the local
logistics partner to the project.
According to Alain
Flourens, Airbus Helicopters’ Executive Vice President of Engineering and Chief
Technical Officer, the “flight demonstration paves the way positively to our
local trial service launch in the coming months.”
Various tests are already
underway, and the unmanned air system will be demonstrated in the university
when the trial service commences this year. As reported earlier, Airbus is looking to extend its urban air delivery service to other areas of Singapore.
In the trial service of the Skyways
system, campus students and staff of NUS will be able to make use of Skyways to
have small parcels between 2kg and 4kg delivered to designated parcel stations
within the campus, which is the size of 150 football fields.
The Skyways project also
aligns with NUS’ vision of serving as a living lab to pilot innovative
technologies and solutions. Students from the NUS Faculty of Engineering will
have the opportunity to gain valuable experience as interns with Airbus for this
project. according to Professor Ho Teck Hua, Senior Deputy President and
Provost of NUS.