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Drone mail delivery arrives in Singapore

Nurdianah Md Nur | Oct. 8, 2015
SingPost has successfully delivered a letter and t-shirt from Lorong Halus to Pulau Ubin using a drone developed by IDA Labs.

Bird's eye view from the drone delivering mail to Pulau Ubin
Bird's eye view from the drone delivering mail to Pulau Ubin. Credit: SingPost

Drone mail delivery might soon become a reality in Singapore, spurred by the recent success of a last mile mail and packet drone delivery trial by the Singapore Post (SingPost).

The trial saw a drone with a payload of a letter and t-shirt flying a distance of two kilometers from Lorong Halus to Pulau Ubin. Built by IDA Labs on the Pixhawk Steadidrone platform, the drone is able to fly as high as 45 metres and as far as 2.3 kilometers to deliver a payload of up to 500 grammes. It is also complemented with a prototype app designed with security and verification features to ensure that the mail reaches its intended recipient, said SingPost.

SingPost flight path

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 e-commerce growth in Asia Pacific. According to research firm Forrester, the region's B2C e-commerce market is expected to reach US$175 billion by 2016.

"There is immense potential in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV, also known as drone) technology for last-mile mail and e-commerce delivery," said Dr Bernard Leong, SingPost's Head of Digital Services. "Drones could reduce delivery time and better fulfill last mile mail and packet delivery, so this allows our postmen to be redeployed to other activities, thus enhancing efficiency and customer experience."

"As SingPost transforms into an e-commerce logistics enabler, we will continue to collaborate with industry leaders and chart new frontiers. We [also] hope to contribute towards building Singapore into a Smart Nation by continuously innovating, and harnessing technology to bring end-to-end solutions that matter to our customers," added Dr Leong.

"It will be a while before it is viable for drone mail delivery to take off in Singapore due to commercial and safety factors. However, this first step demonstrates what Singapore is trying out with our Smart Nation vision -- which is 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 Jacqueline Poh, Managing Director, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).

The SingPost drone trial flight was facilitated by the multi-agency Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Committee. Its  Chairman, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport Mr Pang Kin Keong said, "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 enhance operational productivity, efficiency and effectiveness. All this, of course, needs to be carried in a safe manner, both for the public as well as aviation."


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