Singapore Army and RSAF link drones for the first time to give soldiers more intel

Soldiers preparing the V15 UAV at a training site in Shoalwater Bay, Queensland, Australia on Sept 27, 2022. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SHOALWATER BAY, Australia - For the first time, drones from the Singapore Army and Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) are flying together to give troops on the ground more eyes in the sky to pinpoint enemy locations, which could give them an edge in battle.

On Tuesday, army intelligence soldiers from 11C4I battalion flew the Veloce 15 (V-15), a mini-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at a site in Shoalwater Bay, Queensland.

Farther afield, the RSAF's much-larger Heron 1 UAV was also taking flight, and a new innovation linked the two.

Known as the Mobile Imagery Intelligence Dissemination System (Mids), the new system developed by the RSAF in August pipes down information captured by the Heron 1 to anyone who has an access point.

This gives soldiers on the ground, like the operators of the V-15, more information to conduct their own "last-mile" reconnaissance and surveillance, said Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Law.

SLTC Law, who is head of general staff at Army Intelligence headquarters, said: "This could in battle not only give troops a better picture of what is going on, but also improve their chances of survival with better information about the enemy and their movements."

The two UAVs operate at different scales - the Heron 1 provides a bird's-eye view of the battlefield with advanced imaging sensors and can guide munitions to targets precisely using a laser. It is operated by an RSAF pilot at a distance.

Meanwhile, the V-15 is smaller and more mobile with a wingspan of 3.7m. Deployed by army operators in tactical units, it is able to take off within 10 minutes.

Lieutenant Arjun Radhakrishnan, a Heron 1 pilot, said the Mids connection will allow the RSAF to hand over information on key targets to army operators.

Before its development, information from the Heron 1 could be accessed only at specific control centres, he said.

"This system allows the army and the air force to work hand in hand," he said.

The RSAF is currently putting the Mids system to a trial at Exercise Wallaby, the Singapore Armed Forces' largest overseas exercise, which fully resumed in 2022.

Army intelligence is also taking advantage of the vast skies - an airspace four times the size of Singapore - at Shoalwater Bay to trial their tech in new strategies and configurations.

Soldiers flying the V15 UAV at a training site in Shoalwater Bay, Queensland, Australia on Sept 27, 2022. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SLTC Law said his troops are practising flying the V-15 alongside their Parrot Anafis - small drones that the army also deploys for surveillance and reconnaissance.

Flying both simultaneously in Singapore, where airspace is limited, is extremely difficult, he said.

"Currently the Heron 1 does what it needs to do and the V-15 does as well, the challenge is how to connect the two.

"Technology plays a part and we are developing and experimenting with the software, but what is most important is that we have had the concept for some time and we are now making it happen," he added.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.