Mail delivered in flight, with not a postman in sight? The first step toward making this a daily reality was taken after Singapore Post successfully trialled a mail run from mainland Singapore to Pulau Ubin - the first time in the world a postal service has successfully used an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for point-to-point recipient-authenticated mail delivery.
The last-mile mail and packet drone delivery from Lorong Halus to Pulau Ubin trial was successfully completed as part of a joint development between SingPost and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), the postal service provider announced on Oct 8 (Thursday).
The 2-kilometer test flight took 5 minutes, and carried a payload of a letter as well as T-shirt in a packet, SingPost said.
The drone was built upon the Pixhawk Steadidrone platform by IDA Labs, and is tailored for use in a challenging environment like Singapore, SingPost said in a press release. The drone is equipped with enhanced safety features, and comes with a prototype app designed with security and verification features to ensure mail reaches its intended recipient.
It has the capacity to carry a payload of up to half a kilogramme, fly at a height of up to 45 metres and travel for 2.3km. The focus of the flight was to test the drone technology and safety boundaries.
"SingPost’s exploration of the drone technology is a move to provide enhanced end-to-end solutions to facilitate urban logistics as well as tap on the burgeoning eCommerce growth in Asia Pacific," the postal operator added.
"LITERALLY AIMING FOR THE SKY"
Added IDA Managing Director Jacqueline Poh: “The successful conclusion of this trial shows how SingPost is thinking out of the box and its willingness to expand its traditional mail delivery model in innovative ways.
"Although it will be a while before it is viable for drone mail delivery to take off in Singapore, taking into consideration commercial and safety factors; this first step by SingPost and IDA demonstrates what Singapore is trying out with our Smart Nation vision – to have the various parts of our ecosystem collaborate, experiment with new ways of doing things, and in the process, literally aim for the sky with new technology."
Said Dr Bernard Leong, Head of Digital Services at SingPost: “There is immense potential in UAV technology for last-mile mail and ecommerce delivery. As SingPost transforms into an eCommerce logistics enabler, we will continue to collaborate with industry leaders and chart new frontiers.
"Not only do we want to enable or accelerate eCommerce, we hope to contribute towards building Singapore into a Smart Nation, where technology improves the quality of lives. We seek continuous exploration to break new ground, innovate and harness technology to bring end-to-end solutions that matter to our customers.”
The multi-agency Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Committee facilitated this trial. Said its Chairman, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport Pang Kin Keong: “The UAS Committee has been encouraging and discussing with public and private sector organisations on innovative uses of UAS, and facilitating such trials. The technology opens up numerous exciting possibilities which could help us enhance operational productivity, efficiency and effectiveness.”
SingPost said the trial drone flight was conducted with permissions and cooperation from IDA, the Ministry of Transport, Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, Republic of Singapore Air Force as well as the Singapore Police Force.