Singapore’s first drone estate to see tests for aerial drone parcel delivery

one-north has been designated as Singapore’s first drone estate. —Photo by Koh Mui Fong/TODAY
one-north has been designated as Singapore’s first drone estate. —Photo by Koh Mui Fong/TODAY

SINGAPORE, Feb 7 —Designated as Singapore’s first “drone estate”, the one-north area near Buona Vista is set to host trials involving the use of aerial drones to deliver parcels, as well as other tests involving the experimental use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The 200ha one-north business park is an “ideal location to test varying urban environment complexities for UAS operations”, the Ministry of Transport (MOT), Civil Association Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and national industrial-estate developer JTC said in a joint statement on Wednesday (Feb 7).

They added: “one-north is also a fertile ground for research and innovation, where a vibrant community of start-ups, technology owners and research institutions test-bed their latest urban solutions.”

Plans to designate one-north as the Republic’s first drone estate was first announced by Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan on Monday on the sidelines of the opening of the Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership Summit at Pan Pacific Singapore hotel.

Under the drone estate initiative, approved operators and research users can carry out their trials and operations “without compromising safety and security”, said the government agencies.

Among the projects that will kick off the initiative include the experimental project Skyways developed by French aircraft manufacturer Airbus. Already at its advanced stage, the project aims to develop a safe and economically viable aerial unmanned parcel delivery system for use in a dense urban environment.

With the commencement of the trial phase at the National University of Singapore campus from 2018, Airbus is also keen to extend its urban air delivery service to other areas of Singapore.

Media reports had earlier noted that Airbus had signed a partnership agreement with Singapore Post on the project, with the courier service contributing its expertise in software and delivery systems, as well as postal and e-commerce logistics.

Aerospace firm ST Aerospace will also be conducting trials and evaluating key technologies for its DroNet system, which is designed for “remote and autonomous deployment of drones within an urban environment”.

The DroNet system aims to improve the efficiency of manual tasks. “It can be used to assist a security team to perform perimeter patrols or respond to an emergency call by being the first on site to provide early situational awareness, help a surveyor to perform building facade inspections at heights with automatic detection, or provide faster movement of items in a large facility to reduce waiting times and ground logistic traffic,” said the authorities.

Mr Loh Ngai Seng, MOT’s permanent secretary and chairman of the national inter-agency UAS committee, said there is much potential for “UAS operations to transform mobility and logistics in urban areas”.

The CAAS director-general Kevin Shum added: “With the drone estate, we will be able to work hand in hand with companies to develop the rules and regulations to ensure the safe use of drones in Singapore.” — TODAY

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