Unmanned drones on trial to monitor southern isles

The six-month trial on the five Southern Islands - Kias Island, St John's Island, Pulau Seringat, Pulau Hantu and Kusu Island (left) - is part of Singapore's Smart Nation Sensor Platform project, a nationwide network of sensors and Web cameras that c
The six-month trial on the five Southern Islands - Kias Island, St John's Island, Pulau Seringat, Pulau Hantu and Kusu Island (left) - is part of Singapore's Smart Nation Sensor Platform project, a nationwide network of sensors and Web cameras that collect and analyse data such as temperature and water levels to improve public service. ST FILE PHOTO

Initiative will test use of TV white space to control drones, transmit video for analysis

A trial involving the use of unmanned drones for the remote inspection and maintenance of Singapore's Southern Islands has begun, as part of the Republic's smart nation sensor network roll-out.

The six-month trial will test the use of TV white space - broadcasting frequencies in the wireless spectrum that are not being used - to control the unmanned drones and transmit video footage over long distances for real-time analysis.

The three government agencies behind the initiative are the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.

The trial is part of Singapore's Smart Nation Sensor Platform project, a nationwide network of sensors and Web cameras that collect and analyse various sorts of data, such as temperature and water levels, to improve public service.

In a joint statement yesterday, SLA assistant chief executive of land operations Thong Wai Lin said her agency has been using unmanned drones and sensors to monitor and manage about 11,000ha of state land in Singapore.

However, intermittent and poor mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity has hampered the use of drones in the Southern Islands.

The agencies are hence assessing if TV white space is suitable for transmitting high-quality videos in real time.

 
 
 

Unlike Wi-Fi and 4G signals, TV white space signals are not affected by sea waves, weather conditions and passing ships.

The drones are a more efficient alternative to the current practice of having SLA officers physically scour the islands at frequent intervals.

Mr Lim Chinn Hwa, senior director of smart nation platform solutions at GovTech, said: "TV white space can potentially be an affordable and reliable solution to enable technologies such as sensors, IoT (Internet of Things) and robotics to be deployed in areas of Singapore with limited 4G and Wi-Fi coverage."

Since it is an under-used band in Singapore, TV white space can be exploited to provide low-cost, reliable and long-range wireless connectivity for data transmission, said the agencies.

They will work with technology start-up Whizpace during the trial on the five Southern Islands: Kias Island, St John's Island, Pulau Seringat, Pulau Hantu and Kusu Island.

Besides enabling island maintenance and inspections, TV white space could also potentially provide Internet network connectivity for visitors to St John's Island and Kusu Island.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2019, with the headline 'Unmanned drones on trial to monitor southern isles'. Print Edition | Subscribe