Singapore´s first attempt of drone delivery service has begun by taking vitamins to a ship, with its operator saying Wednesday the devices are crucial in reducing human contact during the coronavirus pandemic.

The use of drones is part of the city-state´s drive to embrace technological innovation, as well as an effort to tackle a manpower shortage in a country of just 5.7 million.

Singapore’s first drone delivery service has started, with the first parcel containing 2kg of vitamins dropped onto a ship anchored off the island on April 19.

The 2.7km, seven-minute flight took place off Marina South Pier, under a one-year deal inked between shipping giant Eastern Pacific Shipping (EPS) and local start-up F-drones.

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Each drone can take up to 5kg of supplies and travel up to 5km offshore each way.

F-drones is the first company to receive authorisation from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) for such deliveries.

The flight on April 19 lasted seven minutes and was over a distance of 2.7 kilometres (1.7 miles), it said.

“Besides being efficient, delivery drones can also reduce unnecessary human contact amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said F-drones chief executive Nicolas Ang.

F-drones said it plans to develop drones that can deliver 100 kilos over distances of 100 kilometres to ships and offshore platforms by the second half of 2021.

Deliveries offshore are currently being done by small boats and helicopters but the company said the use of its unmanned vehicles will save up to 80 percent of the cost and is more environmentally friendly.

Singapore´s civil aviation authority has got behind the use of drones, and is working with industry players as it seeks to shape regulation for the sector.