Singapore pilots drone food delivery program to St.John’s Island
Drone delivery programs continue to be piloted all around the world. While some of these programs have been successful, many also tend to not go beyond the trial process due to regulatory problems as well as network issues.
However, technology is beginning to change the drone delivery landscape. Since the pandemic started, more use cases for drone delivery have been developed. In Southeast Asia, some countries have been using drones to delivery medication to the patients while other countries have been using drone for last mile deliveries.
In India, an update to the Drone Rules 2021 is expected to see an increase in airborne deliveries, especially for food and medication. Over in Australia, a major supermarket recently launched the country’s first grocery drone delivery service in collaboration with a drone delivery company owned by Google.
Meanwhile in Southeast Asia, visitors to Singapore’s St.John’s Island can soon be able to have food delivered to them via drones. The Sentosa x Enterprise Scheme (SES), Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) has teamed up with ST Engineering and food delivery platform Foodpanda to pilot drone food delivery from Sentosa Island’s restaurants and eateries to St John’s Island.
Prior to the pilot drone delivery program, Foodpanda had a successful trial in August 2020 when it delivered five packets of fried chicken via a drone to an offshore vessel. The eight-innovation project under the SES, the drone food delivery pilot aims to enhance Sentosa’s array of unique leisure offerings.
St.John’s Island is located about 6.5km south of Singapore’s main island. The meals would be transported by Foodpanda riders to the take-off point at Tanjong Beach, from where the meals will take a seven-minute flight to a designated delivery point on St John’s Island.
The program will utilize ST Engineering’s in-house drone, DrN-35, which comes with a payload of up to 10kg and flight distance of up to 7km, as well as dual redundancy for power and sensors suite for enhanced reliability. As an additional safety measure, the flight path of the drone will be away from popular areas on Sentosa and St John’s Island.
It will leverage the DroNet solution by ST Engineering, which is a scalable drone operation platform approved by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore for Beyond-Visual-Line-of-Sight flight operations. The end-to-end platform combines drone robotics, networking, video analytics, and data sharing for applications such as public security, perimeter security, asset inspection, and lightweight deliveries.
Creating a drone delivery ecosystem
Drone food deliveries could also enable food and beverage establishments in Sentosa to reach a broader base of customers in the Southern Islands which do not yet have such amenities. This also provides additional business support for participating Sentosa establishments as they emerge from the pandemic.
According to Lee Cheh Hsien, Divisional Director (Planning), SDC, they have been exploring innovative solutions that can support business establishments in Sentosa, while also enhancing the leisure experience of Sentosa’s guests.
“Our latest SES pilot has the potential to achieve these twin objectives. Should drone food deliveries be operationally and commercially feasible, we hope that this service can be extended to our guests visiting the neighboring Southern Islands,” commented Lee.
For Teong Soo Soon, Vice President and Head of Unmanned Air Systems, ST Engineering, drones are the perfect solutions when it comes to overcoming issues related to manpower shortages or logistically challenging tasks. He said the technology has great potential in reducing cost and saving time for last-mile delivery of food, especially to remote locations.
“As ST Engineering continues to unleash the potential of unmanned aircraft systems through its solution, DroNet, we are excited to be working with new and existing partners, SDC and Foodpanda, in our latest endeavor to turn food delivery using drones into a reality,” added Teong.
“Following our previous successful drone trial with ST Engineering, we see this as an encouraging step forward to making drone deliveries a commercial reality. Besides expanding the reach of F&B merchant partners at Sentosa, the drone trial will also be able to provide individuals at St John’s Island with even more food options that were previously not available to them,” said Miro Banovic, Head of Logistics, Foodpanda Singapore.
Banovic also pointed out that such drone deliveries also complement our rider fleet and allow us to deliver food to people in remote or previously inaccessible areas.
The pilot will also study the feasibility and operational requirements of drone food deliveries, including the payment system for such services. SDC will also look into offering guests more food options in the future, as they extend their Sentosa getaway to the other nearby Southern Islands via a short public ferry ride from the Sentosa Jetty.
The drone food delivery pilot will be conducted for around two weeks and will involve a select group of trial participants on St John’s Island.