Drone whisks food orders from Sentosa to St John's Island in delivery trial, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Drone whisks food orders from Sentosa to St John's Island in delivery trial

Visitors to the Southern Islands could one day have their meals flown in from food and beverage establishments in Sentosa, after a drone food delivery pilot took off on Tuesday (March 22).

The trial, which sees Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) collaborating with ST Engineering and foodpanda, aims to extend the reach of Sentosa's F&B outlets to service customers in the Southern Islands, which do not currently have such amenities.

Under the pilot, which runs till April 9, staff on St John's Island - such as those working at the Singapore Food Agency's Marine Aquaculture Centre and the St John's Island National Marine Laboratory - will be able to order meals from more than 20 F&B establishments in Sentosa and VivoCity via the foodpanda app.

The meals are then transported by foodpanda riders to a take-off point at Sentosa's Tanjong Beach. From there, a drone will take a seven-minute flight, carrying the meals over about 4km toSt John's Island to be picked up by the staff.

The feasibility and operational requirements of such drone food deliveries will be studied during the pilot, said SDC in a statement.

Mr Lee Cheh Hsien, a divisional director for planning at SDC, said the drone trial has the potential to support Sentosa's businesses and enhance the leisure experiences of guests.

Last October, SDC launched a ferry service from Sentosa Cove to Lazarus Island - which is connected to St John's Island - to broaden the range of leisure options for its guests.

"Should drone food deliveries be operationally and commercially feasible, we hope that this service can be extended to our guests visiting the neighbouring Southern Islands," he said.

Mr Teong Soo Soon, vice president and head of unmanned air systems at ST Engineering, added that for the general public to be able to enjoy such services, the trial partners will have to find a safe and secure location for the drones to land, and think how the public could collect their orders.

Having the customers retrieve food from the drones requires more planning, said Mr Teong, due to concerns over their safety and potential for mishandling or damaging the drones.

Mr Lee added that as trials have only just commenced, the partners will have to further study when and if the drone delivery service can be rolled out to the general public, and whether other Southern Islands could also be serviced.

Mr Miro Banovic, head of logistics at foodpanda Singapore, said that for a group order from about five to seven persons on St John's Island, each individual can expect to pay between six and eight dollars for delivery fees.

There are also certain limitations on what can be ordered he said. For instance, large pizza boxes may not fit on the drone and bottled drinks are preferred to prevent spillage.

Each drone can bear a load of up to 10kg.

ST Engineering UAV pilot Tang Mun Wai positing the drone. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Ms Camie Chua, senior manager of marketing and business development at Mount Faber Leisure Group - which manages Good Old Days, one of the F&B outlets under the trial - said that while it is too early to determine the impact drone deliveries could have on business, it is a win for Sentosa's F&B outlets as they are now able to tap a previously unreached customer segment.

The eatery has several rice dishes on the menu for drone deliveries, as well as lighter bites such as chicken wings and salads.

This delivery pilot across islands follows an Aug 2020 collaboration between ST Engineering and foodpanda, which saw five packets of fried chicken flown from Marina South Pier to an offshore vessel 3km away in a 10 minute test flight.

The new pilot is also part of the Sentosa x Enterprise Scheme, an initiative launched by SDC in April 2019 that offers local enterprises a chance to trial ideas, concepts, and technologies.

Seven other projects have been tested under the initiative, including autonomous vehicles and a solar powered sunscreen kiosk.