Singapore pilots drone food delivery across islands

Pilot programme enables food and beverage outlets located on Sentosa to deliver orders via drones to customers on St. John's Island, who do have access to such amenities.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

(Source: FoodPanda)

Drones are slated to travel across islands in Singapore, carrying food orders to customers who do not have easy access to such services. The airborne deliveries will be tested in a pilot that aims to assess the viability of such services, including payment systems. 

Scheduled to run until April 7, the test flights are part of an initiative jointly run by Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC), ST Engineering, and FoodPanda. The pilot will see deliveries made from food and beverage (F&B) businesses on Sentosa to St John's Island, which is one of Singapore's Southern Islands.

The tests aimed to determine the feasibility and operational requirements of such drone food deliveries, said SDC in a statement Wednesday. It added that the pilot would allow the organisation to look at offering customers more food options in future.

Besides giving customers on Southern Island access to F&B amenities, drone deliveries also could provide further support for participating Sentosa establishments as they looked to resume normal business operations amidst the ongoing pandemic. 

The trials involve selected participants on St. John's Island, who can order meals via the FoodPanda app from F&B outlets on Sentosa that are part of the pilot. Meals are transported by FoodPanda's riders to a takeoff point at Tanjong Beach, from where the food items then take a seven-minute flight to a designated delivery point on St John's Island. 

ST Engineering's DropNet drone platform would be deployed in the pilot and had been approved by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flight operations

The DropNet system comprised drone robotics, networking, video analytics, and data needed to power applications, such as public security, perimeter security, asset inspection, and lightweight deliveries. 

The pilot would tap ST Engineering's in-house drone, called DrN-35, which touted a payload of up to 10kg and flight distance of up to 7km. The drone also would have dual redundancy for power and sensors for enhanced reliability. 

As an added safety measure, drones would navigate a flight path plotted away from popular areas on Sentosa and St John's Island.

SDC's divisional director for planning Lee Cheh Hsien said: "Over the course of the pandemic, we have been exploring innovative solutions that can support business establishments in Sentosa, while also enhancing the leisure experience of Sentosa's guests.

"We will study the outcome of this pilot. Should drone food deliveries be operationally and commercially feasible, we hope that this service can be extended to our guests visiting the neighbouring Southern Islands," Lee added.

The pilot is the eighth initiative under the Sentosa x Enterprise Scheme (SES), which aims to enable local businesses to testbed concepts that enhance the island resort's leisure offerings. 

It also was an extension of FoodPanda's trial in August 2020, during which the food delivery service provider trialled drone deliveries to an offshore vessel. 

ST Engineering's vice resident and head of unmanned air systems, Teong Soo Soon, said: "Drones are the perfect solution when it comes to overcoming issues related to manpower shortages or logistically challenging tasks. The technology has great potential in reducing cost and saving time for last-mile delivery of food, especially to remote locations."

The local engineering company also was part of a consortium announced in February that aimed to use drones to provide shore-to-ship parcel delivery services. The unmanned aircrafts would be part of a nine-months pilot to deliver maritime essentials to vessels at anchorage. 


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