Drones are now being used in ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship delivers and communication.  With this technology comes vulnerabilities that can lead to hacking and sabotage.   

A company called Wilhelmsen Ships Agency is conducting a ship-to-shore drone delivery pilot project in Singapore, along with partner Airbus.[1]  They made its first delivery in real-time port conditions, delivering a variety of small, time-critical items to working vessels at anchorage in the Port of Singapore.

Figure 1. Wilhelmsen / Airbus promo page.

The utilization of this drone technology is the first shore-to-ship delivery of significant range and scope.  Lifting off from Port of Singapore, Marina South Pier, the Airbus Skyways drone navigated autonomously along pre-determined “aerial-corridors” in its 1.5km flight to the Eastern Working Anchorage.[2] 

The drone landed on the deck of a local tug and transferred 1.5kg weight cargo to the supply vessel MV Pacific Centurion.  The delivery was a success and returned to the base without incident.  The entire delivery, from take-off to the Pacific Centurion and return, took a mere 10 minutes.  From the small drone delivery trials from a tugboat to another vessel, ship-to-shore operations of this scale have never been explored before this trial.  Maersk Tankers had made a delivery to one of its vessels at sea in 2016.  The AP Moller-Maersk Group is now using drone technology at its APM Terminals.

Drones are less labor dependent than delivery via small vessels.  Autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles can potentially reduce delivery costs by up to 90 percent in some ports and have a smaller carbon footprint than delivery vessels.  The ongoing pilot trial will currently focus on offshore supply vessels at anchorage 1.5km from the pier.  Flight range is gradually extended to as far as 3km from the shore.  

Figure 2. Drone Aerial Corridors - Port of Singapore

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore is facilitating the trial, which started in late November 2018, through the interim use of Marina South Pier as the launching and landing point for Airbus’ delivery drone.[3]  At the same time, MPA has designated anchorages for vessels to anchor off Marina South for the trial.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore is also working with Wilhelmsen, Airbus and the National University of Singapore (NUS – Skyways) to ensure the safety of the trials.  Those shipping companies who are involved in this project are: Optimum Marine Management, Fleet Management, Zeaborn Ship Management, Pola East, SK Shipping, and sister company Wilhelmsen Ship Management. 

Wapack Labs Advanced Cyber Analyst said a hacker could target both drone companies with malware.  This to conduct reconnaissance and collection of data to find out more information on their drone project.  This could be accomplished by using a remote access trojan (RAT) (RAT) to obtain access to individual's company e-mails and then begin requesting information from drone engineers about technical aspects of the drone. 

Questions regarding drone components: What is the flight controller hardware and & software? What Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) amps are used? What is the Kv (constant velocity) of the motors? How many cells and capacity are the batteries? Who produces all of the drone components?  Many in the scientific community often want to share this type of information and can easily be tricked into sharing this information.  This information can then be used by a savvy hacker to take over or defeat a drone.  This could cause negative results.

Drone technology is here to stay.  Developing more protections against sabotage is needed before full use of drones in the transportation sector becomes a full reality. 

About Wapack Labs

Wapack Labs, located in New Boston, NH, is a Cyber Threat Analysis and Intelligence organization supporting the Red Sky Alliance, the ISAC community, and individual corporations.  For questions or comments regarding this report, please contact the lab directly by at 1-844-492-7225, or feedback@wapacklabs.com

[1] https://www.wilhelmsen.com/ships-agency/maritime-drone-delivery/

[2] https://lloydslist.maritimeintelligence.informa.com/LL1126625/Wilhelmsen-drone-project-makes-first-shoretoship-delivery

[3] https://mailomg.com/2017/01/18/airbus-drone-delivery-at-university-of-singapore-flying-vehicle-in-2017/

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