The Singapore government science and technology agency HTX reports completion of its first long-distance beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and plans to apply the capability in areas such as saving lives and protecting properties, and enhancing public safety and security.
During the COVID-19 circuit breaker period, HTX augmented Singapore police force resources on the ground by operating these BVLOS flights for patrolling operations around the industrial areas at Tuas South to ensure security. These autonomous flights enabled long distance and large area patrols, requiring only a very lean team to operate remotely.
HTX is currently working with various Home Team departments to design and customise effective BVLOS UAV solutions to meet their specific needs and requirements.
HTX’s Robotics, Automation & Unmanned Systems (RAUS) Centre of Expertise (CoE) worked with ST Engineering Aerospace to develop the Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) hexacopter drone that was used to conduct the BVLOS flight. The hexacopter drone uses a Drone Box concept, which allows it to autonomously launch and recover. The operating concept of the Drone Box also enables the hexacopter drone to fly longer distances over sub-urban areas. According to Mr Cheng, the VTOL hexacopter drone can achieve a flight distance of a few kilometres in about 30 minutes.
BVLOS UAVs are useful to the Home Team for the conduct of patrols and security operations in areas which may be inaccessible or where situations are too risky for manual operations. BVLOS UAVs can also be used as a first responder to provide a situational picture of an incident site, such as a big-scale or high-security event with large crowds, and for sustained and routine patrols. As videos from the UAVs can be streamed to the police operations command centre, the police can rapidly view and assess the situation before deciding on the appropriate resources to send to the ground.
Other situations where BVLOS UAVs can play a critical role include the detection of hazardous materials, the monitoring of fire scenes, and the delivery of essential supplies, which can include Automated External Defibrillators (AED) during critical missions like building collapses to help achieve a shorter response time for life-threatening cardiac arrest cases. The ability to commission BVLOS flights will increase the efficiency of Home Team operations and empower frontline officers to focus on higher-order tasks.
Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, viewed a BVLOS UAV flight demonstration at the Tuas View Fire Station. He said: “This development is a key milestone in the Home Team’s use of cutting-edge technologies to transform the way we operate. HTX and the Home Team departments must continue to innovate and find ways to harness technology to enhance the Home Team’s effectiveness in keeping Singapore safe and secure.”
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