Above: Leo Jeoh, design office head at Airbus Helicopters Southeast Asia (center), and his team pose around the Skyways unmanned aerial vehicle
Airbus Helicopters, a division of aircraft manufacturer Airbus, has completed the first demonstration of its Skyways automated air delivery system at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
The drone took off from its dedicated maintenance center and landed on the roof of a specially designed parcel station, where a package was automatically loaded via a robotic arm. Once successfully loaded with the parcel, the Skyways drone took off for a short time before landing again to demonstrate its automatic unloading capabilities.
The experimental project was launched in February 2016 in partnership with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) with the aim of developing an urban unmanned air system for cities such as Singapore. The collaboration was subsequently extended in April 2017 when Singapore Post (SingPost) was unveiled as the logistics partner for the project.
Airbus Helicopters is the overall Skyways system architect and provider, contributing its capabilities in drone platforms as well as its concept of future parcel delivery. This concept involves systems and structures that allow drones to land, dock with secure structures, discharge or take on payloads, and then fly off to other destinations.
Alain Flourens, executive vice president of engineering and chief technical officer, Airbus Helicopters, said, “This flight demonstration paves the way for our local trial in the coming months. It is the result of a very strong partnership among the stakeholders involved, especially the close guidance and confidence from the CAAS. Safe and reliable urban air delivery is a reality not too distant into the future, and Airbus is certainly excited to be a forerunner in this endeavor.”
For the full trial, campus students and staff will be able to use Skyways to deliver small parcels weighing between 2kg (4.4 lb) and 4kg (8.8 lb) to designated parcel stations within the campus.
Alex Tan, chief information officer, SingPost Group, said, “The urban logistics challenge is complex and an ecosystem of parcel lockers and autonomous vehicles will be a key piece to solving this puzzle. The trial service that is taking off later this year will be an important step forward for SingPost in our efforts to develop solutions for the future logistics needs of Singapore and other cities of the world.”
Prof. Ho Teck Hua, senior deputy president and provost, NUS, said, “Project Skyways aligns with the NUS vision of serving as a living lab to pilot innovative technologies and solutions. The NUS community is very excited to be the first in Singapore to experience this novel concept of parcel delivery by drones an endeavor that could redefine urban logistics. Students from the NUS Faculty of Engineering also have the opportunity to gain valuable experience as interns with Airbus for this project. We look forward to working closely with Airbus, CAAS and SingPost to carry out the campus-wide trial.”
February 14, 2018