Foodpanda Singapore carried out a drone delivery on August 13th, 2020. The drones were deployed to deliver five packets of Ayam Penyet, a popular fried chicken dish, from the Marina South Pier to a ship located 3km offshore. The drone delivery was a result of Foodpanda’s collaboration with Singapore Technologies (ST) Engineering. The food delivery company made use of ST’s drone network system called DroNet.

Foodpanda Aims to Expand Drone Delivery Islandwide

The collaboration between the two companies, called PandaFly, is aiming to make drone delivery the status quo in the coming years. Moreover, Foodpanda has already tested drone delivery in Singapore back in 2015.

“The fundamental desire in doing delivery by drone for us is to increase the choice for customers,” said Foodpanda Singapore managing director Luc Andreani. Additionally, he stated that such a delivery network will not just reduce delivery time but also delivery costs in the long run.

Foodpanda Drone Delivery
A Foodpanda official attaching the payload on the delivery drone

“As with any big disruptive innovation, in the very early days it’s more like an investment for us, with the objective of also making it economically viable in the future,” Mr Andreani added.

DroNet: The Intelligent Drone Networking Solution

ST’s DroNet is still under development. The DroNet includes a drone-hub or drone-station from where the drones are deployed in large numbers. This process is similar to a drone swarm, wherein a large number of drones collaboratively work as a single unit. However, in this case, each drone can carry out a multitude of missions.

They will work individually but remain connected to a central hub. Through the central hub, each drone can be monitored and controlled. When a drone runs out of battery, it flies back to the drone-hub, has its batteries swapped, and resumes the operation within minutes. ST describes this technology as ‘highly scalable’. The drones can form large clusters and cover an entire city or island. Therefore, this will enable the formation of a “Drone City”.

In February this year, ST had announced that it was collaborating with maritime group Wilhelmsen Ships Service on the development and testing of shore-to-ship drone deliveries in Singapore. The recent drone delivery test with Foodpanda was conducted using the DrN-15L drone. The DrN-15L can reportedly carry 2 kg of maximum payload and has an operational range of 5 km.

Drones are gradually becoming more mainstream in the logistics sector. Companies like UPS, Amazon, and Alphabet have already received FAA approval for testing out BVLOS commercial drone delivery. Also, Alphabet already has its drone delivery network set-up in several cities. Thus, the PandaFly project can be expected to be fully operational by 2023.