UK flying taxi startup mulls ship-to-shore delivery in Singapore

UK-based flying taxi startup Skyports Ltd. is planning to begin trials for ship-to-shore drone deliveries in Singapore over the next year as it seeks to commercialize its service.

Skyports, which operates infrastructure for flying taxis and other urban air mobility devices, signed an initial agreement with Singapore’s state-backed operator Jurong Port Pte on Friday to study the feasibility of the service, it said in a statement.

The company will work with regulators, and private and public entities to develop a legal framework to deploy the service, it said. Skyports competes with Urban-Air Port Ltd. to develop so-called vertiports.

“Drone delivery will bring about faster delivery times, higher labor productivity and reduced emissions,” said Ng Yi Han, director of innovation, technology and talent development at the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. The step is an “important milestone” to commercialize maritime ship-to-shore drone deliveries, Yi Han said.

With rising demand for fast delivery and technological advancements, the market for drone package deliveries is expected to grow to more than US$15 billion by 2028 from about US$500 million in 2020, according to Verified Market Research.

When deployed at scale, drone deliveries will be more cost-effective and faster than via boats, said Yun Yuan Tay, head of Asia Pacific at Skyports. To account for limitations such as weight and package sizes, drones will run complementary to boats, Tay said. Maritime drone delivery services are currently focused on last-mile shipping and logistics operations, to transport essential items like medical supplies, spare parts and even cash, Tay said.

Skyports is also working to build a terminal for electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft in Singapore, in partnership with Electric air-taxi startup Volocopter GmbH. It also has plans to expand into Japan and Australia.

Jurong Port operates ports and terminals handling cement, steel, containers and fuel in Singapore. The company also has overseas ventures in China and Indonesia. — Bloomberg