Singapore students create rescue and survey drone

NUIS student Jonathan Chua, 25, with two variations of the multi-purpose quadcopter developed by his team. When a roll cage (right) is snapped on, it can roll on the ground and enter buildings to give aid or reconnoitre.
NUIS student Jonathan Chua, 25, with two variations of the multi-purpose quadcopter developed by his team. When a roll cage (right) is snapped on, it can roll on the ground and enter buildings to give aid or reconnoitre.PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Battery-powered quadcopter can be deployed remotely on land and at sea

Students here have developed a drone that can be used as an eye in the sky during riots, to deliver aid after disasters, and to take ropes and harnesses to people trapped in burning buildings.

The multi-purpose quadcopter created by the Newcastle University International Singapore (NUIS) team turns into a rolling ground unit to save energy when roads are usable, and can deploy inflatable lifebuoys for rescues at sea.

The $4,000 prototype won a bronze at the Security Awareness for Everyone awards this month. The Home Affairs Ministry programme aims to find solutions for problems faced by police and civil defence officers.

The gold award went to portable BlokCrash screens that can be assembled quickly to shield traffic accident sites, so drivers do not slow down to gawk.

A mobile phone app called Speed Photofit took the silver. It enables witnesses to crimes to create rough sketches of subjects on their phones to send to the police.

The quadcopter can be used for riot reconnaisance, said project supervisor Ahmed Qureshi, who lectures at the NUIS mechanical and systems engineering school.

It can be snapped onto a cylindrical wireframe that allows it to roll on the ground, and protects both the machine and people from the blades when it is flying.

"Singapore is an urban space with lots of buildings, so surveying a riot would mean flying over people," said Dr Ahmed.

Commercial quadcopters are mostly hobby devices used for film-making. The NUIS version can carry loads of up to 3kg, or about a day's worth of food to a stranded family after a disaster.

It can fly for up to 30 minutes per battery charge, so it can travel within a 2.5km radius and return in time for another charge.

The NUIS team has created a portable recharging base with 10 batteries, so the drone can be operated remotely and carry out supply missions continuously.

Tests show it can survive a fall of up to 2m. The team plans to improve its survivability before rolling it out commercially.

zengkun@sph.com.sg