Singapore has recently launched its first Maritime Drone Estate near Marina South Pier as part of Singapore Maritime Week after two years in the works.
The new space has been declared as a “regulatory sandbox” for drone fliers and companies to test and develop drone technology for maritime applications.
To date, nine companies — including maritime firm Wilhelmsen and aircraft manufacturer Airbus — have trialled the use of drones to deliver goods such as 3D-printed shipping parts to vessels docked near Singapore shores.
The use of drones to deliver goods from shore to ship will help increase productivity and reduce manpower needs, as well as improve safety, efficiency, and sustainability of the maritime industry.
Previously, such deliveries is done using small boats that can take nearly an hour for a round-trip. However, drones can deliver goods in merely less than fifteen minutes.
With the help of drones, workers will no longer have to climb steep stairs to carry goods from the small boats to ship or conduct inspections on ships.
In April last year, Singapore’s first drone delivery service delivered food and vitamins to crew on ships. This approach removed unnecessary human contact in times of pandemic.
Integral to the drone technology development is the use of Nova Systems, which has developed a traffic system that allows for simultaneous drone flights. Their software can track up to 500 drones in a simulated environment.
While industry players applaud the use of drone technology for deliveries, they have been proposing to the authorities a bigger, more permanent space for their drone trials.
Upholding The Safety Regulations Of Drone Use
Meanwhile, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min noted that potential safety and security threats could arise from irresponsible usage of drones at the estate.
“To ensure that drones are operated safely, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) is also looking into strengthening the Unmanned Aircraft Regulatory Framework. This may include the mandatory registration of drones,” he said.
All private and commercial drone operators need the authorisation from the CAAS to deliver goods and services. The CAAS has come up with a set of detailed regulations on different permits and licenses required to fly drones outdoors in Singapore,
This set of regulatory frameworks — which was last updated in 2020 — are listed under the Unmanned Aircraft (UA) section on the CAAS website.
Registration of drones, obtaining different permits, and licensing get increasingly complex with the increase in size and weight of drones, as well as the size and weight of objects that they carry.
There is also a OneMap interactive portal that outlines areas in Singapore which are off limits to drones.
Using drones for photography, videography, and collection of other forms of data will also have to comply with the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), on top of the CAAS regulations.
Featured Image Credit: Airbus