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Singapore Govt may start using drones to deliver medicine and for security

A recent report noted that the Singapore Government is considering the use of drones to deliver life-saving medical supplies to patients during emergencies or to respond to security breaches. The move comes under a new system in development.

A consortium (i.e., Future Flight Consortium) led by start-up Garuda Robotics has been selected by Singapore’s civil aviation authority and transport ministry to create an air traffic control system for drones in Singapore, as skies over the city-state are increasingly abuzz with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Another report stated that the Garuda-led Future Flight Consortium submitted its proposal after Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Ministry of Transport called for the development of an unmanned aircraft systems traffic management (UTM) framework in November last year.

Future Flight Consortium said its proposed system will enable beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) flight operations in Singapore’s urban environment.

In other words, it will allow for remotely controlled flights, where pilots can be located in central operation bases and don’t need to be in eyesight of the drones they’re flying.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force - which manages the city-state's emergency services - and fellow consortium member Garuda Robotics said they were in talks to use drones in the force's operations, in particular, to deliver "critical life-saving supplies".

A hospital operator in the consortium said it plans to use drones to transport blood samples and specimens between its hospitals and central laboratory, while a security firm said it will use the devices to respond to security incidents and fire alarms.

Its uses could also include delivering emergency medical supplies and responding to security incidents across the city-state.

Despite Singapore’s small geographical size and population size of 5.6 million, it is ultra-modern, well-ordered and tightly regulated – factors seen to improve the scheme's chance of working.

The drones would be operated remotely by pilots at an operations centre and be able to travel relatively long distances across the city-state.

This is in contrast to their recreational counterparts - whose use is permitted in Singapore - which can travel only short distances and are at all times visible to their operators.

At the moment, such drone tests are limited to a “drone estate” in the city-state’s One North business district.

The consortium said it will generate flight paths for the drones and will develop a private communications network as well as take-off and landing sites.

The ministry and the CAA recognized the need for a UTM as the existing regulatory framework isn’t up to scratch when it comes to accounting for a range of possible applications for drones, such as package delivery, buildings inspections, and security surveillance.

Ong Jiin Joo, Garuda’s chief technology officer and Future Flight Consortium’s project director said that the goal of the programme designers is to make it possible for any enterprise that needs to fly drones BVLOS in Singapore to easily do so in a safe and effective manner.  

Future Flight Consortium has decided that over a two-year period, members will collaborate to develop the system, trial their technologies, and pilot the drones from a centralized Drone Operations Center in order to “demonstrate the reliability and safety of the system”; they have pledged to conduct rigorous safety tests.

Two other consortium members – Skyfront and the Singapore Civil Defence Authority – are exploring how BVLOS drones might be used to deliver supplies in emergency “first responder” situations.

Parkway Pantai – which runs four hospitals in Singapore – is also a member. It wants to trial the transfer of blood and other specimens by drone between its hospitals and its central lab.

Other members of the Future Flight Consortium include Singtel, the Security Industry Institute, and several other companies.

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