Counter-drone vehicle, life-detection robots among new projects at Home Team Science and Technology Agency

Xentinel, an anti-drone mobile response vehicle, is able to detect drones up to a kilometre away and requires only one person to operate.
Xentinel, an anti-drone mobile response vehicle, is able to detect drones up to a kilometre away and requires only one person to operate.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - The newly formed Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) unveiled on Monday (Dec 2) its latest projects to solve crimes, save lives and protect public spaces.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched the HTX, a Ministry of Home Affairs statutory board, at Mediapolis in one-north.

The agency is made up of science and technology units from the various Home Team departments such as the police, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, and the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

Here are some of the prototypes that the HTX is working on.

DRONE BOX CONCEPT

A ground pilot might no longer be needed to operate drones as these could be deployed autonomously from special weatherproof boxes within a 5km radius.

This allows the Home Team to deploy drones for long-range operations out of sight from the drone operator.

The project is a collaboration with drone company Airobotics. Such unmanned aerial vehicles could help to provide a live feed of areas that are difficult to access.

They could also be used for search-and-rescue operations and delivery, such as for automated external defibrillators, and to ferry supplies to police coast guard vessels out at sea.

When the drones return to the boxes, a robotic arm can automatically swop out the batteries or the sensors that the drones carry.

These functions are controlled remotely from a command centre.

There are 12 battery docks in the box, with each battery allowing for 40 minutes of flight time.

Sensors that can be carried by the drone include infrared, thermal and lidar (light detection and ranging).

ANTI-DRONE VEHICLE

A new, modified car called the Xentinel could reduce the manpower needed to guard against unauthorised drones from a team of officers to just one person.

 
 
 
 

The Xentinel, which is equipped with radar and can detect where radio signals are coming from, can be set up within minutes.

It is also equipped with cameras so that it can provide visual confirmation of the drones.

A "smart" jammer is used to disable the drones, without affecting electronic signals used by other devices, such as a smartphone used by a member of the public.

While some training is needed to know how to interpret the system readings, the officer does not need extensive technical knowledge to operate the vehicle, which is designed to have an intuitive user interface.

The Xentinel's subsystems are also modular and easily accessible to allow for easy maintenance. Repairs can even be made at the front-line where it is deployed.

It is currently in development, with plans for operational trials in the middle of next year.

LIFE-DETECTION ROBOTS

Urban search-and-rescue missions can be dangerous, and robots that resemble animals are being developed to function as first responders to support such disaster rescue efforts.

Rover-X, which looks like a dog, is able to travel across uneven terrain, such as an area filled with bricks, on its own.

Its maximum speed is about 1.3m a second.

The robot is a collaboration between HTX, Ghost Robotics and Klass Engineering and Solutions.

There are plans to upgrade the robot with the capability to map its surroundings and navigate on its own with minimal human intervention.

In addition to Rover-X, there is a smaller robot that is designed to go underneath rubble and debris. It has a three-segment design to help it overcome height obstacles and to allow it to be more flexible.

It carries various life detection capabilities, such as sensor units that it can drop.

The units contain chemical sensors to detect substances like carbon dioxide and ammonia.

The robot, a collaboration with Japanese robotics firm Hibot, has a snake-like body, a microphone for audio detection, and high-definition and infrared cameras.

It is undergoing further evaluation trials.

In the future, the team hopes to add speakers so that the robot will be able to communicate with survivors.

DIGITAL FORENSIC INFORMATION KIOSK



The Digital Forensic Kiosk (left), available at all divisions, allows investigation officers to progress faster on their cases. 
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Previously, front-line officers have to go to a central lab to submit personal electronic devices for examination.

Now, with the Digital Forensic Kiosk available at all divisions, extracted data from these devices, such as mobile phones, laptops and hard-disk drives, can be viewed by officers without needing the help of the lab, and at any time of the day.

This allows investigation officers to progress faster on their cases .

Simple to use and designed for non-technical users, the kiosk is able to extract data such as contacts, calendar events, messages and photos.

For more complicated functions such as unlocking encrypted devices or recovering deleted data, the help of the specialist unit would still be needed.

A platform called Digest can review the processed data, perform searches and analyse if multiple devices from different people share any links, such as common images.