July 12, 2021

How are beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations transforming deliveries in Asia Pacific?

Sanjay Suresh, Skyports’ recently appointed Business Development and Operations Manager Asia Pacific, discusses the unique market for drone deliveries in Singapore and the great potential of drones to complement existing logistics within the maritime industry.

How are beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations transforming deliveries in Asia Pacific?

There are many countries in Asia Pacific with dispersed rural communities or countless geographical barriers such as mountains and rivers. In some countries, millions of people live scattered on different islands. In these settings, communities often suffer from a lack of equal, reliable, and frequent access to the products they need, including crucial medical commodities. BVLOS drone operations can overcome the geographical obstacles by helping ensure that every Asia Pacific inhabitant has the same access to reliable product deliveries.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing global trends had already underscored the need to develop future-ready tech solutions to address the shortcomings of our current infrastructure. For example, the shift towards e-commerce, the realities of climate change, rising importance of integrated supply chains, and rapid urbanisation have accelerated interests in alternatives.

Against this, the realities of COVID-19 have heightened the interest in the deployment of drones to keep people and communities linked at a time when social separation was essential for healthcare imperatives. Individuals, businesses, and governments have looked to employ these technologies to carry out traditional manned operations in a COVID-secure way.

Why did Skyports choose Singapore as one of its first target markets for drone deliveries in Asia?

Singapore provides a unique environment and challenge. It has a densely urban area, but a society and government which actively embraces new technologies to improve how they go about their lives. The Nanyang Technological University in Singapore conducted a study in 2019 of 1050 Singaporeans and Permanent Residents, out of which more than 65 percent supported the commercial use of drones. We’ve since seen an incremental growth with interest by both public and private agencies here and we’re ready to support with the right technologies and skills, for safe and secure operations.

In Singapore, the authorities have set up a Maritime Drone Estate (MDE) to serve as a test bed for drone operations. The MDE is a perfect launchpad to test out drone technologies with opportunities to improve safety standards, efficiency, sustainability and access.

Singapore has a bustling maritime industry and COVID-19 has emphasised the potential drones provide in this space. Movement has to be restricted even as essential operations in the maritime industry continue. Drones hold a great potential to complement existing shipping protocols and systems. One particular area is in the movement of maritime logistics between ship and shore. Traditionally, this is a labour-intensive, time-consuming process, with higher risks and leaves a sizeable carbon footprint. With drones, essential supplies can be transported safely and securely, in a more cost-effective and less carbon-intensive manner.

What value does Skyports bring to the industry?

At Skyports, we are focused on providing a quality service enabling air mobility. We source the best drone technologies tailored specifically for the type of operations they are to be used for, and integrate them with infrastructure suited for the environment we are operating in. We are using qualified pilots with specialised experience in BVLOS flight operations, centrally managing their training and standards in the different types of drones within our fleet and ensuring that they are appropriately qualified based on the laws of each state we operate in.

Tell us about yourself and how you plan to expand Skyports drone operations in Asia Pacific?

I am a drone pilot by training with over 900 flying hours and 13 years of experience in military and commercial drone technologies. I have spent most of that time serving in the Air Force in Singapore, developing concept of operations, and leading drone operations. Following that, I was part of a team driving research, test, and evaluation to enable beyond visual line of site (BVLOS) drone operations to be scaled up in Singapore. I am very excited to work closely with Skyports customers and partners in Asia Pacific to identify, design and execute competitive solutions which can be integrated into their existing business models and supply chains to increase efficiency and revenue.

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