PUB keen to send in the drones

PUB assistant engineer Ramli Tahir operating a robotic swan - New Smart Water Assessment Network (NUSwan) - which conducts real-time monitoring of water quality in reservoirs.
PUB assistant engineer Ramli Tahir operating a robotic swan - New Smart Water Assessment Network (NUSwan) - which conducts real-time monitoring of water quality in reservoirs. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

They could be deployed in reservoirs to monitor pollution or detect illegal fishing

A drone could, in the future, be used by national water agency PUB to monitor reservoirs.

A trial of the drone started in April this year at the Marina Reservoir and PUB is now exploring if it can be used to help monitor pollution or look out for cases of illegal fishing, for example.

Separately, discussions are ongoing with potential partners to develop a drone to be used in the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System - which can go to depths of 50m.

The system consists of a network of sewers which carry used water by gravity to centralised water reclamation plants.

The drone was among five technologies unveiled at the Marina Barrage yesterday ahead of the Singapore International Water Week taking place from July 10 to 14. The others are a robotic swan that "swims" in the water to monitor water quality, automated meter reading systems to track water consumption, sensors and image analytics.

The technologies are at different stages of implementation, and will help improve water surveillance and save manpower costs, among other benefits.

PUB is getting approvals to use the drone to monitor reservoirs, said Mr Tan Nguan Sen, PUB's chief sustainability officer. He added that the drone could help to quickly detect discharges into the water and trace the source of such discharges.

He said: "When someone discharges something into a canal or river, it will eventually find its way into the reservoir." It is hard to trace the discharge to its source from the ground.

To monitor water quality, PUB has developed a robotic swan together with the National University of Singapore Environmental Research Institute and the Tropical Marine Science Institute.

Designed to look like a life-sized swan, it can measure parameters such as chlorophyll and turbidity. The pilot to test out the swans in Marina and Pandan reservoirs ended last month, and PUB hopes to roll them out in the next few years.

One technology already in use is the silt imagery detection system. It monitors silty discharge such as clay and sand.

It sends out real-time alerts when it detects irregularities or when CCTV cameras are not working.

The system has been used to monitor 250 construction sites islandwide.

By next year, 800 sites are expected to adopt it, resulting in about 100,000 man-hour savings a year for contractors.

Since 2002, PUB has worked on 467 research and development projects worth $323 million.

The technologies will be showcased at the Smart Water Solutions Pavilion from July 11 to 13 during Singapore International Water Week.

Using smart technologies to improve planning and operations in water management will be a key focus at this year's event, said its managing director Bernard Tan.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2016, with the headline 'PUB keen to send in the drones'. Print Edition | Subscribe