Singapore’s National Parks Board to step up use of technology for greenery management

The National Parks Board of Singapore reportedly announced that it will be adopting new and innovative technologies to improve efficiency and greenery management. In the next three years, through the greater use of technology, Singapore's two million trees along roads and in parks and gardens will be inspected and maintained more rigorously and efficiently by the Government. This will be done through a new digitalisation masterplan which aims to use more technologies in greenery management and nature conservation in the next three years.

The International Federation of Landscape Architects World Congress announced that under this masterplan, NParks will consolidate its technology and research initiatives into one database, named Maven. It stores information on park planning and facilities data, tree information, biodiversity data, vegetation maps and satellite maps. The database information can then be accessed by NParks officers on their mobile devices to obtain data on trees, parks, and gardens anywhere anytime.

NParks will focus on using technology to improve three main areas: tree management and inspection, nursery management, and nature conservation and biodiversity management.

Currently, the National Parks Board (NParks) is testing an electronic tilt sensor, an Inclinometer, which is placed on mature trees. It aims to detect signs of leaning in these trees which could result in structural instability. With the sensor data, NParks officers can take better measures to prevent accidents.

Other technologies include:

i.  A Sonic Tomograph: An advanced-level diagnostic tool used to provide a picture of the internal condition of a tree without having to drill into it. It does so by measuring the velocity of sound waves in wood.

ii. A Resistograph: NParks currently uses resistograph models for tree and timber assessment. They come in different drilling depths to allow for diverse site situations and the various sizes of the urban forest populations.

iii. Telescopic Video Camera: Using the on-ground video feed provided by a camera attached to a  telescopic pole, a tree inspector can more efficiently monitor and record the condition of the various parts of the tree’s crown. The cameras can stream live and record videos so that managers can gain critical, time-sensitive information when needed. Video footage can also be used to verify that greenery tasks have been completed, reducing the need for staff to conduct physical verifications.

iv. 3D Tree Model: This project seeks to develop effective tools and techniques to create accurate 3D models of trees using light detection and ranging data that NParks officers can use to conduct modelling studies of the trees and as an additional tool to determine the maintenance needs of a tree. For example, they can study the effects of environmental conditions of wind on the stability of a tree using the 3D model.

v.  Smart Irrigation System: The smart irrigation system is linked to weather and soil humidity sensors and can automatically trigger the watering of plants during dry weather conditions. This watering is tailored to the water needs of individual species.

A fleet management system is also being developed. It will consist of GPS trackers, sensor devices and video camera recorders installed on vehicles used by NParks contractors performing greenery work.

One project involves tree inspection microdrones. Since 2017, the lightweight drones have been used as quick and effective tools to inspect tree crowns from the air allowing officers to obtain valuable images and videos from perspectives which would have been impossible to get without a trained arborist physically climbing the tree.

On the conservation side, it is developing a prototype forest fire detection system to continuously monitor Singapore's nature reserves. The system is expected to be able to differentiate between varying fire conditions to pre-empt changing weather patterns. The use of such a system reduces the manpower needed for patrolling nature reserves, especially during dry seasons, and enables the timely deployment of resources for fire-fighting.

These projects will complement NParks' existing technology initiatives for tree inspection and management.

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