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Drone-Based Food Delivery Industry in Singapore

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Delivery of food has become incredibly popular, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the most recent development in a bigger trend in food service automation is drones. All facets of the food service industry are incorporating technology to improve operational efficiency and cut costs.

With a background in aeronautical engineering and a desire to make a difference, this group of six Aerospace Engineering students created an autonomous drone capable of navigating Singapore’s skyline and delivering food from scratch.

The team finished second in the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Innovation Competition 2022, which was co-hosted by the Singapore Land Authority and the Space Faculty.

Six Year 2 students from the Aerospace Engineering degree programme offered jointly by the Singapore Institute of Technology and the University of Glasgow composed the squad namely Chai Ming Keat, Chu Meng Kang, Khosyi Di’bal Bin Harjuna, Muhammad Khairel Bin Ismail, Phoebe Victoria Chee, and Tan Wei He.

The team developed their drone after receiving an email from their professor about the GNSS Innovation Challenge, which required contestants to design a last-mile autonomous robot capable of navigating robot-unfriendly areas. They opted to pursue it because they were intrigued and encouraged by their knowledge of aerospace engineering.

As a result, an autonomous food delivery drone was developed that could deliver meals faster and more safely than human riders. It was an ingenious invention. Following the outbreak, they realised that there was an unprecedented demand for food delivery.

The team noted that the first time they learned how to design a drone was in one of their modules, and even then, it was only in theory and concept. However, building a drone from inception and observing it fly was an accomplishment for them.

According to a Southeast Asia Food and Grocery Trends 2022 analysis, seven out of ten consumers saw delivery as a permanent part of their post-pandemic existence, and monthly food and grocery delivery expenditures were 30% higher in May 2022 versus November 2021. Singaporeans spent the most on delivery.

This put additional strain on both delivery platforms and riders, who put their lives in jeopardy daily. In fact, one out of every three riders was involved in a road collision.

Fawkes was thus created. It is intended to be self-sufficient and clever enough to navigate any high-density city with high-rise structures.

At 10 m/s, Fawkes can go three kilometres in five minutes, delivering significantly more than the average of three to four orders that a human driver can manage and keeping food warm for longer. Using a drone also reduces the need for human-to-human interaction in the setting of a pandemic.

Building a drone from the ground up, it turned out, requires more than simply knowledge of aeronautical engineering. As a result, the team learned new talents along the way. They paid close attention to every aspect, from soldering to sourcing discarded drone parts and electrical components to 3D modelling and programming.

The team intend to build up their prototype and increase its capabilities. Hence, Fawkes is ideal for cross-island food delivery, such as to neighbouring islands that may be difficult to reach because of a lack of roads. They are also determined to extend Fawkes’ flight time so it can travel further and hopes that it would be commercialised and approved for use by the authorities to serve the nation better.


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