Global shipping and logistics firm Maersk is looking at ways to use drones for delivering equipment to ships and is planning to conduct a test later this year, after using the technology in January for delivering cookies to a tanker at sea.
“The company is evaluating ways to expand its use of drones and plans a bigger test later this year,” said Markus Kuhn, a supply chain manager at Maersk, at the Drones Data X conference in San Francisco.
In January, the company made a drone fly 250 metres from one of its barges to a tanker and drop off a batch of cookies.
It is now looking for a drone-making partner for a test flight that would haul a 10-kg package for 10 km.
According to a IDG News Service report, the test would help in highlighting a key usage for Maersk, that of resupplying its fleet of tankers, oil platforms, container ships and other craft.
It would serve as a key proof of concept for getting important gear to remote ships. That 10-kg weight would cover a lot of the important equipment deliveries it makes to ships.
The report said Maersk could use drones to cut the cost of operating its wide swathe of businesses, which include a shipping line, a port logistics company and a oil platform operations company.
By using drones for resupply, the company might be able to avoid sending an entire ship on an equipment delivery to a tanker, which it sometimes has to do to comply with regulations about protecting explosive cargo, it said.
Kuhn said the company sees a lot of opportunities to use drones for inspecting equipment, including using them to reach places where humans cannot.
However, he said, the company isn’t interested in technology for its own sake. Each use of a drone has to be cheaper than whatever method Maersk is using now, he said.