The Maersk Edgar, sitting in Danish waters, received a care package of cookies in the first drone delivery of its kind, testing out the parameters of the technology.
Marcus Kuhn, supply chain manager at Maersk Tankers and part of Maersk Group Procurement Marine, is running a project to test the possible
uses of drones. The test, in collaboration with
Bauer’s drone maker Xamen Technologies, was
the first using a drone to make a delivery on
board a vessel.
In the tankers business, it can be hard to predict
far in advance which port will be called next and
even when in port, it can be complicated and
expensive to deliver items to vessels since they
are not quayside.
Drones must be safe for the environment they are operating in, especially around tankers, so they cannot create any spark even if they were to crash. The purpose of this test at Kalundborg was to use a drone that was already ATEX approved for potentially explosive environments, and see how the concept works.
"Drones can make savings in both costs and time. There are high costs for on-board delivery of small parcels, filled with urgent spare parts or mail, because of the need for a barge," says Kuhn.
Drones are being tested for inspections across
the Maersk Group. Maersk Oil is using them for installations in the North Sea and APM Terminals
for cranes in its ports. A small group of experts,
including Kuhn, are identifying the common
interests of business units and listing potential
Other potential uses as drone technology are developing rapidly. They could carry out inspections or piracy look-out in high-risk transits. Inspections could include high quality photos or videos of certain areas, such as the transom stern and flare on the bow, or cargo tanks.
Once a suitably ATEX approved drone is available, Maersk Tankers could avoid the costs and time for washing, gas-freeing and "re-inerting" during a
cargo tank inspection. Drones could increase the quality of inspecting challenging areas and with
high quality images, meaning cracks can be identified faster. Those potential early findings
could avoid higher expenses if problems are only discovered later.
"We are very early in the process and we need to
Photo credit: Maersk
be sure the technology works safely," says Kuhn. "It’s often quite challenging to get things on board. So I was a happy man when the test worked out fine."
The next steps for Maersk Tankers and the Maersk Group are to evaluate the test findings. Drone technology is developing rapidly and the Group Technical Innovation Board has slated this area as one of five projects to commence in 2016 as part of an effort to develop a pipeline and culture of early-stage technical innovation.
On board Maersk Edgar, Captain Peder Georg Kastrup Christensen hands out the freshly-delivered Maersk cookies, which survived the trip unbroken.
"It’s a totally new step in delivery to vessels," says Captain Christensen. "Today it’s cookies. Another time it might be medicine which we need to treat someone on board."
The drone used in the test, the LE 4-8X Dual Atex, was from the French company Xamen and is ATEX zone 2 approved for use in potentially explosive environments. It is an octocopter drone with a wingspan of 40 inches and almost 16 inches high with a maximum speed of 52 feet per- second. Delivery of a small parcel over 1km (.62 miles) from shore to vessel would take about 1.5 minutes. The max pay-load of this test drone is 4.4 pounds.
Other drones, which are not ATEX approved, can already today carry up to 22 lbs. Testing is in alignment with the Maersk Group’s health and safety standards and local laws, and the test at Kalundborg was approved by Danish authorities.
To watch a video of the Maersk drone in action: www.maersk.com