SINGAPORE: Singapore's first drone delivery service has begun by taking vitamins to a ship, with its operator saying Wednesday (Apr 29) the devices are crucial in reducing human contact during the coronavirus pandemic.
The use of drones is part of the city-state's drive to embrace technological innovation, as well as an effort to tackle a manpower shortage in a country of just 5.7 million.
The drone delivered two kg (4.4 pounds) of vitamins to the ship owned by Eastern Pacific Shipping, its first paying customer, said F-drones, the company behind the service.
"Besides being efficient, delivery drones can also reduce unnecessary human contact amid the COVID-19 pandemic," said F-drones chief executive Nicolas Ang.
The company is the first in Singapore to receive authorisation from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to conduct beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) deliveries to ships, it said in a statement on its website.
A BVLOS authorisation is required when operating drones beyond the visual range of drone pilots, without which commercial drone delivery services would not be viable, the company pointed out.
"This already is a significant milestone for both F-drones and Singapore, as globally, there are only a handful that are operating commercial BVLOS drone deliveries," it said.
F-drones said it plans to develop drones that can deliver 100 kilos over distances of 100 kilometres to ships and offshore platforms by the second half of 2021.
Deliveries offshore are currently being done by small boats and helicopters but the company said the use of its unmanned vehicles will save up to 80 percent of the cost and is more environmentally friendly.
Singapore's civil aviation authority has got behind the use of drones, and is working with industry players as it seeks to shape regulation for the sector.