Drones can check for mosquitoes, assist in search-and-rescue efforts

Drones are set to become an increasingly common sight here as government agencies adopt the technology.
Drones are set to become an increasingly common sight here as government agencies adopt the technology.ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
Drones are set to become an increasingly common sight here as government agencies adopt the technology.
Drones are set to become an increasingly common sight here as government agencies adopt the technology.ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG

The next time you hear buzzing outside your window during dengue season, it may not be the mosquitoes making the noise, but a drone sent by the authorities to survey and eradicate them instead.

Drones are set to become an increasingly common sight here as government agencies adopt the technology to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their operations.

The National Environment Agency (NEA), for example, has been testing the use of drones to check roof gutters, which are potential mosquito breeding sites if they are choked with leaves or debris.

These gutters are often located high on the facade of buildings, which can make accessing them difficult for NEA officers performing inspections.

Currently, NEA officers use inspection poles equipped with cameras to check gutters on higher floors.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore is testing a drone that can be deployed quickly in emergency situations to survey the waters, such as in an oil spill or a search-and-rescue scenario. Named Water Spider, it can take off and land in water. It is able to feed footage to a central command system, and thus allow more eyes to scan what the drone sees. This can increase the chances of spotting debris or boat capsize victims in the water.

At times, they may also be required to construct scaffolding outside the building to reach these gutters. This requires more manpower.

Now, it may take only one NEA officer to fly the drone and survey the gutters from the safety of the ground.

These drones can also be equipped to disperse larvicide, which comes in pellets that dissolve in water to kill mosquito larvae.

This test is expected to end in the second quarter of this year and the NEA will evaluate the outcome before deciding on wider drone deployment.

These tests are timely as an unusually large number of dengue cases - almost 2,700 as of Wednesday - have been reported since the start of this year, according to the NEA.

This is a spike compared with previous years.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore is also testing a drone that can be deployed quickly in emergency situations to survey the waters, such as in an oil spill or a search-and-rescue scenario.

 

Developed by local engineering firm Hope Technik, the drone, named Water Spider, can take off and land in water.

It is able to feed footage to a central command system, and thus allow more eyes to scan what the drone sees. This can increase the chances of spotting debris or boat capsize victims in the water.

The drone is expected to be operational from the second quarter of this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2016, with the headline 'Drones can check for mozzies, assist in search-and-rescue efforts'. Print Edition | Subscribe