New Home Team drone can fly farther for security sweeps

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam watching the drone take off during a flight demonstration at Tuas View Fire Station yesterday. The machine was developed by the Home Team Science and Technology Agency and ST Engineering Aerospace. ST PHOTO:
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam watching the drone take off during a flight demonstration at Tuas View Fire Station yesterday. The machine was developed by the Home Team Science and Technology Agency and ST Engineering Aerospace. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

It can monitor larger areas, conduct operations in risky or inaccessible situations

The Home Team has unveiled a new unmanned drone that will allow agencies to fly farther into areas to do security sweeps, covering larger areas based on a pre-programmed flight path.

The drone, which embarked on its maiden long-distance flight yesterday, can be operated beyond the sight of the operator, which means it can fly several kilometres away from the person controlling it, instead of being only several hundred metres away.

The machine, developed by the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) and ST Engineering Aerospace, executes long-distance Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

This is as opposed to Extended Visual Line of Sight (EVLOS) flights, which require a safety pilot to eyeball the drone and take over control if required, working with a primary drone operator situated in a control room.

With this new technology, Home Team agencies will be able to use the drone in areas such as patrolling and monitoring larger perimeters. The drone can also be used to conduct security operations in inaccessible areas or in situations that are too risky for manual operators to be present.

The drone can provide real-time situational pictures of incident sites and bird's-eye views of large-scale or high-security events with large crowds, as videos from the drone can be streamed directly to the Police Operations Command Centre for officers to rapidly view and assess the situation.

The drone can also play a role in detecting hazardous materials and monitoring large fires from above.

Its developers are also working on giving it the capability to deliver essential supplies - including automated external defibrillators (AEDs) during critical missions such as building collapses - which can shorten response times and potentially save lives.

Mr K. Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, viewed a BVLOS UAV flight demonstration at Tuas View Fire Station yesterday. He said: "This development is a key milestone in the Home Team's use of cutting-edge technologies to transform the way we operate."

For instance, if there are obstructions to normal routes by which fire fighters can move, or if access entry routes are blocked, drones provide a much easier way to identify breaches, he added.

"HTX and the Home Team departments must continue to innovate and find ways to harness technology to enhance the Home Team's effectiveness in keeping Singapore safe and secure," he said.

 
 

Such drones also came in handy during the Covid-19 circuit breaker when the Singapore Police Force used them alongside its area patrols, operating BVLOS flights for patrolling operations around industrial areas in Tuas South. The flights helped the police to cover long distances and large areas, with a lean team operating remotely.

HTX is currently working with various Home Team departments to design and customise the BVLOS UAVs further. Also in the works is the ability to outfit these drones with an automated payload swop feature, which could see drones carrying cameras, hazmat detectors or mechanisms for the delivery of items such as AEDs.

Mr Cheng Wee Kiang, director of HTX's robotics, automation and unmanned systems centre of expertise, said: "The automated payload swop means that the payloads can be adapted to different missions and situations swiftly."

The drone operates out of a drone box that comes with a set of charged batteries that can be rapidly changed to quickly get the drone ready for its next mission.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2020, with the headline 'New Home Team drone can fly farther for security sweeps'. Print Edition | Subscribe