The Singapore Police Force's new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) took to the skies for the first time yesterday with its flashing red and blue blinkers resplendent at the Marina Bay Countdown 2018.
The UAV is part of a slew of enhanced operational capabilities being rolled out by the police to improve security measures at large-scale events.
Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said yesterday that thousands of officers were on higher alert for year-end festivities like countdown celebrations, including the one at Marina Bay.
Regular police officers, full-time national service officers, operation-ally ready national service officers and Volunteer Special Constabulary forces were all deployed, he added.
There were a total of 25 countdown events islandwide yesterday, with the largest at Marina Bay attended by about 350,000 people.
"We have a very high level of security measures," said Mr Shanmugam on the sidelines of a constituency event in Canberra.
Singapore is "an obvious target", he said, noting that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) recently issued a video featuring Singaporean Megat Shahdan Abdul Samad, 39. In it, ISIS called for attacks against non-Muslims.
"There will be mad people who might actually go out and try and attack, in different countries," added Mr Shanmugam.
Technology is also used to guard against mass attacks and to help with crowd control.
The UAV is one example. "The prototype is fitted with a full high-definition camera and a high-intensity searchlight. It will complement the police boots on the ground and give a bird's-eye view of the crowd during major events, just like the New Year's countdown party," said a police spokesman during a preview last week.
Other initiatives, such as new Division Command Vehicles, and enhanced police cameras fitted with speakers and lights, can be expected to be seen on such occasions.
The police also revealed that they deploy the Gurkha Contingent and Special Tactics and Rescue (Star) snipers during events with large crowds.
More than 700 officers were deployed for the Marina Bay Countdown 2018 with the Gurkhas and Star snipers complementing other police units on duty.
The police have trialled UAVs during past major events, such as the National Day Parade, but their capabilities were limited to visual surveillance, said a spokesman.
The one used for the countdown has a siren and a speaker that can broadcast announcements. It weighs 12kg and can record car number plates when flown from its maximum height of 60m. A spokesman said the police took a few months to develop the prototype with industry partners like Aetos Security.
It is set to be fully deployed by the end of this year and can be used for search and rescue, hostage situations, public order incidents and enforcement operations.
The Division Command Vehicle, which was also deployed for the first time at the Marina Bay countdown, is a more nimble version of the police's Forward Command Vehicles and allows a mobile command post to be set up quickly.
It has a retractable camera on its roof, extending 5.8m from the ground, to conduct 360-degree surveillance and view incidents up to 150m away. It can be used during public order cases like riots and prolonged incidents such as hostage situations. It can be deployed more easily and faster than the Forward Command Vehicles, which will be phased out.
A police camera with speaker and light capabilities is also on trial. It has been used near public entertainment outlets in Clarke Quay for the past two months and was in operation at various locations for the Marina Bay countdown party.
The speaker and light features allow the police to respond to crimes or incidents in progress by playing pre-recorded messages to warn people in the vicinity and brighten the location when suspicious activity is detected. "This may help to prevent the situation from escalating further before the police's arrival," said a spokesman.
• Additional reporting by Aw Cheng Wei and Toh Wen Li