HDB and A*Star to study using drones and robots to enhance construction site safety

AI and machine learning technologies will be applied to video feeds to identify safety lapses in real time.
AI and machine learning technologies will be applied to video feeds to identify safety lapses in real time.PHOTO: A*STAR

SINGAPORE - Robots and drones may soon become a common sight in construction sites to help building projects operate faster and more efficiently.

It is hoped that the mass roll-out of 5G technology will mean robotics will enhance the safety of building sites through real-time video streaming and surveillance of work activities.

Making this a reality is one objective of a research collaboration agreement between the Housing Board and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), National Development Minister Desmond Lee announced on Friday (March 26).

At the inaugural Urban Sustainability R&D e-Symposia - which brings together the research community, government agencies and industry partners for a series of webinars to be held in the coming year - Mr Lee said: "The construction sector was one of the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic.

"This painful experience has strengthened our resolve to change the way we do construction, once and for all. We must decisively shift the built environment sector away from its heavy reliance on manual labour."

HDB and A*Star said in a joint statement on Friday that besides researching the use of technology to enhance site safety, they will also study systems that scan and map construction environments to develop up-to-date as-built models.

The 3D models, which show an exact rendering of the project, will be built using light detection and ranging (Lidar) technology.

Developing these models, which typically take place when construction is nearing completion, is done manually and is labour-intensive.

By deploying a fleet of drones and robotics to map the site into a model, manpower and time will be saved, said the HDB and A*Star.

Besides research collaboration, they also announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding to translate research and development (R&D) projects into commercially ready products.

HDB chief executive Tan Meng Dui said: "Through relentless research and innovation over the years, we have built up a wealth of knowledge in urban solutions for the built environment.

"We will continue to work closely with industry partners to accelerate technology transfer so that the built environment sector can benefit from our R&D outcomes."

A*Star chief executive Frederick Chew said that the agency has been working on increasing public sector collaboration with the built environment sector.

"We also aim to work with HDB to translate public sector R&D into positive impact on our society and economy, through such collaborations," he added.