Skyways drones star of Singapore Airshow

The Skyways drone delivery project has made waves at the Singapore Airshow.

The project is run by Airbus and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. Singapore Post is the logistics partner for Skyways, that is running a trial of small parcel deliveries using autonomous drones to designated stations on the National University of Singapore (NUS) campus.

In a statement, Airbus explained the way the tests work: “Incoming packages are first loaded automatically onto the drone via a robotic arm at designated parcel stations. Drones launch and fly autonomously, delivering the package to delivery stations on the campus, where it is then stored in lockers for campus dwellers to retrieve it.

“The drones will fly along aerial corridors to avoid collision while the central ground operations centre continuously monitors flight operations and unmanned air traffic.”

The Skyways system was developed in France before being finalised and then built in Singapore.

“We will have five or six drones flying in the initial trial phase this year and we expect it to run several months to be able to collect relevant data and insights,” said design office head at Airbus Helicopters and Skyways project lead Leo Jeoh.

Should the pilot project be successful the plan is to extend the tests to delivering parcels to ships anchored in the port of Singapore. As it develops, other ideas for the Skyways project include delivering higher value goods or medical supplies to areas hit by disasters. The company is already testing this concept in parts of Africa not reachable by road.

Jeoh added: “We see Skyways as an important stepping stone in paving the way for air mobility in urban settings. It’s an awesome opportunity for Airbus to run a first live autonomous and electric urban air mobility exploration. We are essentially opening up Pandora’s box to determine what it will take for unmanned vehicles to fly safely in cities. All regulatory issues must be properly addressed before we will see either drones or larger passenger electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs) such as CityAirbus flying above our heads.

“I am convinced that Airbus will be pivotal in the shift from ground to air transportation in urban spaces.

“Through our strong relationship with CAAS, the NUS and SingPost, we will be able to run a meaningful trial that allows us to explore and develop regulations, technologies, and operational requirements to safely operate unmanned vehicles in urban environments while gaining valuable insight from campus dwellers on how they feel about the tech flying around.”