Among the uses being developed for drones is the ability to make ship-to-shore deliveries.
The shipping industry and port authorities are showing strong support for the concept, and recently a Singapore start-up raised seed capital from the shipping industry and investors to continue development of its technology.
F-drones, founded in 2019, raised seed capital to continue development of its system, designed to carry payloads of more than 200 pounds over a distance of more than 60 miles.
Ship management company Eastern Pacific Shipping, which has participated in early test flights, led this investment round along with participation from shipowner/ship manager Schulte Group through its venture arm, Innoport.
Also participating in the fundraising were SEEDS Capital, Entrepreneur First, Orient Ventures, Superangel and some angel investors from Singapore.
“We are very pleased to be able to close the round with more capital than we initially intended. This demonstrates the industry’s confidence in our ability and vision to make maritime logistics more efficient, sustainable and safe,” says Yeshwanth Reddy, co-founder of F-drones.
F-drones is currently conducting test flights of its Hyperlaunch system, capable of delivering 10-pound loads over 30 miles.
In December 2019, during the first test flights, they sent nearly two kilograms of spare parts and 2.5 kilograms of Christmas gifts to the crew aboard an East Pacific bulk carrier docked in Singapore harbor.
During the return flight, the drone carried samples of fuel and fresh water ashore. Subsequent flights included the first commercial drone delivery beyond line of sight to another Eastern Pacific vessel and the first commercial drone delivery at night in Singapore.
“EPS is proud to lead the first round of seed capital for F-drones. We firmly believe they will reinvent the land-to-ship delivery process by being faster, cheaper and cleaner than any existing model in use today,” said Gil Ofer, Special Advisor, Innovation, Eastern Pacific Shipping.
Among other advantages of the technology, they highlighted the ability to limit direct contact, which has proven so critical during the pandemic.
F-drone is using these early systems to develop its Hyperlaunch Heavy (HLH), an all-electric, autonomous drone of its own, capable of delivering payloads larger than 200 pounds.
The goal is to begin test flights to ships in Singapore later this year and begin commercial drone deliveries with Hyperlaunch shortly thereafter.
Other organizations working with F-drones include the Maritime and Port Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, which are helping to develop service protocols and test flights.
Among the shipping industry, Wilhelmsen, GAC Group, Hafnia and Throme Group have also collaborated and supported the company.