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Project Seeks to Build Drones to Supply Offshore Wind Farms 

drones to deliver supplies to offshore wind farms
F-drones has tested its aerial systems for deliveries to vessels near Singapore (F-drone)

Published Mar 3, 2022 6:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

A broad range of industries is exploring the use of drone technology as a delivery tool for everything from consumer goods to critical, time-urgent materials needed by manufacturers and at commercial sites. In the latest development, a Singapore-based partnership is planning to co-develop the world’s first large scale, electric aerial delivery drones for offshore wind farms. According to the companies, aerial technology would not only have speed advantages but significant cost savings versus other means of sending materials to offshore locations.

Marco Polo Marine Ltd., a regional integrated marine logistics company, and F-drones, a Singapore-based company developing large scale autonomous delivery drones, signed the memorandum of understanding to co-develop the new application of drones. The partnership will co-develop drones customized for deployment in Asia-Pacific, to send supplies and critical items to offshore wind installations.

The use of the co-developed delivery drones is expected to result in more than 90 percent cost savings and would be four times faster than traditional means, according to the companies. They point out that currently, the offshore sector relies mostly on boats and occasionally, helicopters, as the key modes of transport. The concept builds on F-drones' current programs of building aerial delivery drones capable of carrying up to 100kg over 100km. Further, as the offshore maritime industry transitions to a lower carbon footprint, using drones has an added environmental benefit according to Sean Lee, Chief Executive Officer of Marco Polo Marine.

F-drones has been developing drones to deliver cargoes of up to 100kg over 100km including working with the shipping industry. They have tested drones to carry critical spare parts to vessels as well as for the transfer of documents to shore to speed processing for arriving vessels. They also highlighted the advantages of contactless delivery which was demonstrated its importance during the height of the pandemic.

In December 2019, during the first test flights, F-drone sent nearly seven pounds of spare parts and five and a half pounds of Christmas gifts to the crew aboard an Eastern Pacific bulker anchored in Singapore harbor. During the return flight, the drone carried fuel and fresh water samples to shore. Subsequent flights included the first commercial beyond-visual-line-of-sight drone delivery to another Eastern Pacific vessel and the world’s first commercial drone delivery at night in Singapore.

Singapore has been at the forefront of the development of drones between shore and its busy anchorage and shipping lanes. After a series of preliminary tests using drones to carry documents, supplies and parts, as well as for remote inspections, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore launched a designated area for the operation of the drones in April 2021. The designated drone park is close to the anchorages and includes a designated landing and takeoff area for the drones, as well as places for the operators to set up to manage the flights.