Singaporean maritime drone company F-drones has completed what it believes to be the first commercial drone delivery at night. The company flew a package out to the bulker Berge Sarstein, owned by Berge Bulk, marking a new milestone for drone operations at the Port of Singapore.
In the test, F-drones' unit carried a 3D-printed part weighing three kilos out to the Berge Sarstein at her anchorage. The flying distance was about three nautical miles, and the drone completed the flight in just seven minutes. The payload was the world’s first 3D-printed, CE-certified lifting tool (a tripod-shaped jig for lifting engine pistons), which was designed and printed by engine manufacturer Wartsila. It was delivered in partnership with Wilhelmsen Group.
Globally, commercial drone deliveries are limited to daylight hours due to the technical and operational challenges of night operations. As ports around the world operate round the clock, the capability for night flights would allow drone operators to compete with small-boat operators for vessel delivery services day and night. F-drones suggests that this would improve safety (by reducing pilot ladder operations) and speed up the delivery of critical parts and supplies.
F-drones is also conducting autonomous test flights of its own new in-house drone design, which is built to handle deliveries of five-kilo loads - the largest payload in its class - over a distance of 25 nm. The company says that it has completed more than 100 autonomous flights with the new drone system since the start of the year. With a top speed of nearly 80 knots, the new unit is designed for rapid deliveries. Commercial launch is scheduled for 2021.
“Traditional means of transport are expensive, slow, labor and carbon intensive. F-drones’ solutions aid the maritime industry to reduce 80 percent of the costs, time and CO2 emissions. Besides being efficient, delivery drones can also reduce unnecessary human contact amid the COVID-19 pandemic," said Nicolas Ang, the company's co-founder.