Skyports Drone Services strategist Michael Merritt shares his views on the opportunities and applications for drone services in the maritime industry.

The global drone market has seen explosive growth throughout the last decade; The market is expected to grow from $15B to $90B by 2030. The reduced cost, increased speed, and zero carbon emission associated with UAVs can be applied to offshore maritime supply chains to save an estimated $700 million by reducing the per delivery cost at anchor by up to 80%. 
 
The Challenge

Maritime Supply Chains Under Pressure – High Anchorage Waiting Times Driving Costs  

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent measures caused significant delays for global shipping; anchorage waiting times for vessels coming into berth have doubled from two years ago with no signs of relief – and years on from the initial lockdowns, the impact can still be felt. This congestion puts significant pressure on legacy port services for vessels at anchor. 

The marine traffic data and Spire congestion data below show the status quo within the Port of Singapore (where Skyports operates ship to shore deliveries for several of the world’s leading shipping companies), the average delay today is 20-30hrs. 

These delays are mirrored worldwide at the busiest ports, with the ten busiest having delays of over 20 hours (as shown in the Skyports Drone Services Port Congestion analysis below). With more vessels at anchor for longer, the need for the delivery of medical supplies, foodstuffs, cash, documents, spare parts and bunker samples is growing and with it the cost.  

Costs: Launch Boat Delivery at Anchor   

Delivery of supplies to a ship at anchor can often be costly. Smaller launch boats are typically used to transport supplies or goods to vessels at sea every day globally; these usually cost $450-2000 regardless of the number of parcels. Since this type of transportation will always require a crew for the boat with manpower and fuel, the price will may well increase over time. 

The Future: Drones. Faster, Cheaper & Greener 

100% electric drones can fly directly from land to vessel in minutes tocollect bunker samples or make deliveries and pick-ups. The drone service can streamline lengthy multi-mode transport supply chains with direct delivery. Flown remotely from a centralised command and control centre, Skyports estimates drones can be up to 80% cheaper and 3-5x faster than traditional launch boats while reducing carbon emissions.  

Current Operations in Singapore:  

Skyports Drone Services is currently operating within the Port of Singapore, flying daily BVLOS ship-to-shore delivery trials in partnership with global shipping companies, including Wilhelmsen & Thome. Skyports Drone Services is one of less than five companies to have completed fully automated live ship landings without a safety pilot, project video link

The Current Capability – Skyports Swoop Aero and ST Engineering  

Skyports Drone Services operates as a ‘drone airline’. We are vehicle agnostic, meaning we find, test and fly the best tech for the job. We have deep, long-term partnerships with best-in-class OEMs. For our ship-to-shore program, our partners of choice are Swoop Aero and ST Engineering. Their drone solutions enable us to deliver the following capabilities:

What’s Next? 

Flying UAVs off shore and landing on vessels isincredibly complex; with constraints in payload, vehicle size and flight area governed by the regulation it is clear that in the short term our ship-to-shore program will augment rather than replace legacy launch boats.  

However, as regulations scale, so will the drone service; Skyports Drone Services estimates that over the next 3-5 years, it can scale to deliver to vessels at anchor across the busiest ports across the EMEA, APAC and Latam regions with increased payloads of 50-100kg.  

 
The global commercial shipping fleet totals 100,000 vessels with 4 million port calls each year. The speed, cost and carbon emissions of UAVs can disrupt maritime supply chains and bring greater efficiency to modern ‘just in time’ shipping.  

Get in touch!  

If you would like to learn more about our ship-to-shore program or explore working together in one of our launch ports please get in touch:  

Michael Merritt (Strategy & Operations)  

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +447500958096  

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