The test drone LE 4-8X Dual Atex
- The drone used in the test 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 104cm and 40cm height and 16 m/s max speed
- Delivery of a small parcel over 1km from shore to vessel would take about 1.5 minutes. The max pay-load of this test drone is 2 kg
- Other drones, which are not ATEX approved, can already today carry up to 10kg
- Testing is in alignment with the Maersk Group’s high health and safety standards and following local laws, and the test at Kalundborg was approved by Danish authorities
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.
Offshore in Denmark’s Great Belt, the drone quickly gains height into the misty white. It motors quickly over the short divide between barge and tanker, hovers 5 metres above the deck and drops its cargo of Maersk cookies on to a designated landing spot. The original plan to launch from shore was changed because the fog, so the team worked from the barge instead.
“We are very early in the process and we need to 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.”