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Airbus Shows Off Its New Automated Delivery Drone Service in Singapore

February 12, 2018, 12:09 PM UTC

Airbus is enthusiastically pushing into the drone segment—the company showed off its Alpha One drone taxi earlier this month—and now it has for the first time demonstrated drone-based package deliveries.

The demonstration took place on the campus of the National University of Singapore, ahead of a wider trial of its “Skyways” delivery service in the city-state later this year.

“Safe and reliable urban air delivery is a reality not too distant into the future, and Airbus is certainly excited to be a forerunner in this endeavor,” said Airbus chief technology officer Alain Flourens.

There are many companies that are trying to develop drone-based delivery technology, from tech giants such as Google and Amazon to established logistics outfits such as DHL.

Airbus’s take on the emerging field, however, goes beyond showing the practicality of a small unmanned vehicle taking packages from one place to another. In this demonstration, the drone took off from its maintenance center, was automatically loaded with a robotic arm at a “specially designed parcel station, took off again, landed, and then automatically unloaded its package.

When the Skyways trial launches in the coming months, campus students and staff will be able to use it for the delivery of packages weighing 2-4 kilograms (4.4-8.8 lbs) within the campus grounds.

Singapore’s civil aviation authority (CAAS) is on board, so to speak. It wants to see the project rolled out in phases, though.

“For Singapore, this project will help to develop innovative rules to support the development of the unmanned aircraft industry in Singapore,” said director-general Kevin Shum.

Singapore, of course, is pretty small as countries go. In the U.S., conflicting federal and state-level drone rules have led companies to test deliveries in other countries. President Donald Trump’s White House last year made it easier to get approval for tests.