Military tech

Surveillance tower keeps watch over S'pore waters

A new watch tower with advanced sensor systems deployed at Jurong Island means Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers on surveillance duty no longer need to look out to sea using binoculars for hours.

Surveillance can now be done remotely, reducing the number of soldiers required for such operations by up to 30 per cent.

When intruders come within Singapore's waters, an alert will be sent through automated target identification. The tower also provides a better field of view and range than what can be seen with the naked eye, even during night-time.

The first Unmanned Watch Tower (UWT) is already operational this month, with two more to be deployed on Jurong Island by September.

Calling the watch tower "an important addition that strengthens the overall defence of Jurong Island", Colonel Dinesh Vasu Dash, 44, Commander of 2nd People's Defence Force (2 PDF), said that the most impressive thing about the system is not its eyes, but its brain.

"In the system, data analytics and pattern matching are used to alert the operator to any anomalies, following which the operator is able to do a more detailed investigation. He's then able to trigger quick response forces from both the SAF or the Singapore Police Force."

Designed and built by DSO National Laboratories, the 6m-tall structure can be deployed on demand to enhance the SAF's surveillance capability for protection of installation operations.

When intruders come within Singapore's waters, the Unmanned Watch Tower on Jurong Island sends an alert through automated target identification.
When intruders come within Singapore's waters, the Unmanned Watch Tower on Jurong Island sends an alert through automated target identification. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Compared to soldiers watching the waters using binoculars, the UWT has twice the area of coverage and better view in low-light conditions such as during night-time, although Defence Ministry declined to reveal the range of the tower due to operational security concerns.

Such information collected will be shared with other agencies, such as the Police Coast Guard, to enhance coordination efforts in coastal surveillance.

The UWT is also equipped with a long-range acoustic device, which operators can use to warn off intruders once they enter a certain restricted zone close to Singapore.

Corporal James Tan, 24, a security trooper currently deployed on Jurong Island, said the main difficulty he faces is eye fatigue from staring at the sea for prolonged periods.

"Having the UWT gives us good visuals, with clear and precise accuracy of the vessels that are coming in, so that we can react quickly."

Lim Min Zhang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2018, with the headline 'Surveillance tower keeps watch over S'pore waters'. Print Edition | Subscribe