Singapore

Police trialling self-operating drone system

This article is more than 12 months old

A self-operating system that allows a drone to take off, land and recharge its batteries on its own is being tested at an industrial estate in the western part of the island by the Singapore Police Force.

This system allows an operator to configure details like a drone's flight path and monitor it remotely in an off-site command centre so no pilot has to be on-site.

Having drones monitor the industrial estate reduces the need for patrols by police officers in the area.

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Elvis Chong said industrial estates are relatively deserted during the circuit breaker period and susceptible to crimes such as housebreaking and theft.

"We don't want criminals to take the opportunity to break into these warehouses or office areas... especially during this difficult period," said DSP Chong, commanding officer of Clementi Neighbourhood Police Centre.

The police plan to deploy this self-operating drone system in residential estates later in the trial, which began at the end of last month.

But having a self-operating drone system that does not require an on-site operator would also mean autonomous drones can be deployed safely in hazardous and remote sites, for search and rescue and to deliver supplies and equipment.

For example, the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) is exploring using this self-operating system to deliver automated external defibrillators within a shorter time.

The self-operating system comprises a drone housed in a 2.2m-tall box that can be easily deployed. The drones can fly within a radius of a few hundred metres, with cameras that have high-zoom capability.

Flights can last for at least 30 minutes, depending on how much equipment the drone is carrying and weather conditions.

DSP Sum Teck Meng, who is in charge of the Home Team unmanned aerial vehicles unit, said the quality of the footage is important so officers can get a clear understanding of the situation on the ground.

For the ongoing trial, a temporary command centre has been set up on-site, with an officer positioned there to observe the flight of the drone.

The trial is a precursor to operating flights from the boxes, where the drones can be flown even when they are completely beyond an operator's line of sight, so no officers have to be physically present at the location.

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