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Drones about to take off in Singapore

SINGAPORE: February 07, 2018. Airbus has partnered with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and Singapore Post to test its Skyways package delivery drone project at the National University of Singapore later this year.

Echoing a concept trialed in Germany by Deutsche Post DHL, packages will be loaded automatically on the drone via a robotic arm at designated parcel stations and then flown autonomously to a destination locker for storage and retrieval.

Skyways Singapore droneDesigned using the technical and engineering expertise of Airbus Helicopters and the command and control technology from Airbus Defence and Space, the drone architecture has been developed and validated in France and then designed and 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," explained design office head at Airbus Helicopters and Skyways project lead Leo Jeoh.

Following first trials, Airbus says it hopes to extend the tests to deliver packages to ships anchored in the Port of Singapore or avoid road congestion by flying medical supplies across the city.

Last year the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation approved the use of drones to carry laboratory samples between two hospitals in Lugano, following 70 test flights by Swiss Post, the Ticino EOC hospital group and drone manufacturer Matternet.

Airbus acknowledges that a sophisticated traffic management system will be required to avoid drone collisions with passenger aircraft, helicopters and flights by the military: "Tech development is far from being the only hurdle to overcome to rollout full-fledged drone delivery in cities," explained Jeoh.

"We see Skyways as an important stepping stone in paving the way for air mobility in urban settings. We are essentially opening up Pandora's box to determine what it will take for unmanned vehicles to fly safely," he continued.

Jeoh thinks the answers will come from exploring and developing regulations, technologies and operational requirements to operate drones in urban environments, while at the same time gaining insight into how people feel about sharing their lives with unmanned vehicles.

In addition to Swiss Post and DHL, delivery drones have also been tested by Amazon, JD.com, Lufthansa Cargo, Matternet on behalf of the Rwandan government, Mercedes Benz, Pony Express Ireland, and the 7-Eleven convenience store chain.

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