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Asia Minute: Pandemic Boosts Drone Delivery Development in Singapore

Airman Eugene Oliver
U.S. Air Force

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way many businesses operate. It’s also led to an increased pace of development for certain ideas — including one announced this week in Singapore.

Delivery by drone is getting a lot of attention these days, with a heightened sense of urgency driven by the coronavirus pandemic. Singapore’s first drone delivery service has made its initial drop off. Nothing too big, but it’s a new approach for the country.

Amazon’s been working on drone deliveries for a long time — same story with UPS, even Domino’s Pizza.

But the Singapore case is very targeted – not to the doorsteps of consumers, but to the decks of ships.

Earlier this month, a private company sent a drone to a ship about three miles off Singapore’s coast –dropping off about four and a half pounds of vitamins. The start-up company F-drones says it’s developing models that can carry loads of more than 200 pounds for more than 60 miles.

Singapore’s port is an important part of its economy, and it turns out there’s a thriving business moving relatively small payloads from ship to ship – from drill bits to gas tanks.

Drone deliveries are cheaper than helicopters and faster and environmentally cleaner than diesel-powered launch boats.

Challenges to drone deliveries are not just with the delivery systems, but also with the airspace. That’s less of an issue for the port of Singapore, where one drone company official said the regulations are much less complicated flying over water than flying over residential neighborhoods.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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