A.P. Moller Maersk A/S, the world’s largest containership operator by capacity, is studying deploying drones aboard its giant vessels and at its port operations around the world in an effort to cut the cost of supplying ships at sea. While studies are preliminary, Maersk says it could save up to $9,000 per ship in annual operating costs by shuttling everything from mail, medicine and spare parts by drone. The company is looking at stationing drones aboard ship for other tasks, like hull inspections. After Amazon, the biggest sea deliver company is trying to use this high tech product to make the business more efficient. Farmers, logistic companies and those ecommerce giants are all plan to use drones. The action from Maersk just convinced the market the drones business is on the schedule and problems still exist on the reaction from the regulation.
In January, Maersk test flew a drone from a tugboat to a tanker off the Danish island of Zealand, delivering a small package—a box of Maersk-branded Danish butter cookies, weighing about 2.6 pounds. The cookies were dropped from a height of about five meters and didn’t break. The test drone, which was supposed to cover a distance of about a mile, flew about 270 yards because of fog.
Maerk’s move is just one more attempt by businesses to find commercial uses for increasingly sophisticated drones. Amazon.com, the online shopping giant, has started to gradually move into the shipping business itself. The company this month teamed up with Air Transport Services Group Inc. to run a fleet of 20 Boeing Co. 767 freight planes, to reduce reliance on carriers such as United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. Its Amazon Prime Air has been on a hiring spree in the U.S., U.K. and Israel, with the aim of using drones to deliver packages short distances by air.
Regulators have scrambled to keep pace with drone development on land. Drone use at sea wouldn’t necessarily raise some of the same concerns about noise, privacy and safety that they have in many other jurisdictions. But international laws that govern conduct at sea outside of territorial waters would likely have to accommodate drones if they became widely used.