To a lot of people when speaking about drones – they immediately think of invasion of privacy, foreign attacks or an expensive hobby.
But the Government of Singapore believe that drones can and are playing a transformative role in the world in fields such as urban infrastructure management, farming, public safety and disaster response. Drones are a lower cost alternative to a manned aircraft and can reduce risks to human life.
In May this year, Singapore, Parliament approved the Unmanned Aircraft (Public Safety and Security) Bill, which aims to regulate the use of drones with a clear set of rules.
Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew has said that 20 incidents involving drones have been reported since April 2014. There are a few times drones have dropped on MRT tracks: Commonwealth MRT and Lakeside MRT, due to members of the public flying in an open field and losing control.
But despite these rare incidents, Singapore has proved to be open and positive about using drones in order to increase efficiency and productivity nationwide.
More and more government agencies are tapping into unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for various projects.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, for instance, is working with local engineering firm Hope Technik to develop a Water Spider drone to better assess oil spills.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force announced the use of aerial drones for safer and more efficient firefighting. Drones are becoming more popular because they are getting cheaper to make.
It has been reported that the National Environment Agency had considered deploying drones to conduct searches for mosquito breeding grounds.
Last October, Timbre Group signed a deal with Infinium Robotics to set up fully-automated flying robot drones serve food to customers at its five outlets. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong observed a smart flying robotic waiter serving food during a demonstration at Singapore’s National Productivity Month in 2014.
Just this month Singapore successfully performed the world's first delivery of mail by drone, conducting a test flight carrying a letter and a parcel with a T-shirt, which crossing from one island to another.
The SingPost Alpha Drone was built by SingPost in collaboration with IDA Labs, the research arm of the government agency Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).
"This drone technology is tailored for use in dense urban landscapes. It is energy-efficient and reduces carbon footprint as it is fully battery-operated,"said Dr Bernard Leong, head of digital services at SingPost.
In the future, drones will be used to gather data for public agencies, private companies and individuals to use. For example, drones can capture: Exterior views of tall buildings for safety inspections, Aerial views of parks and forests for land management, Real-time views of emergency situations for first responders
Drones are already being used to efficiently capture high-resolution aerial views of building facades and roof structures for safety inspections.
Mr Ng Lang, Chief Executive Officer of the URA, said, “The current rapid advancement in disruptive technology offers exciting opportunities to explore new ways to plan, develop, and manage the city. Drone technology is one example. It allows us to conveniently capture and generate high-quality, precise 3D digital models of buildings that we used to take weeks to do, and at a lower cost. It is among the range of tools we are experimenting with now that will transform the way we plan for Singapore.”
Land management will also benefit from drones’ ability to efficiently capture aerial views. In an environment like Singapore, there are numerous spaces that need to be monitored and maintained.
Drones can also be deployed as eyes in the sky for real-time monitoring of emergency situations such as traffic accidents and fires.
Singapore sees drones as effective devices in a step closer to becoming the world’s first Smart Nation, a city where technology has direct and positive impact on people’s lives.
Singapore is pushing towards becoming the world’s first Smart Nation, one that will improve the quality of life for individuals and business opportunities for enterprises. In a Smart Nation, Government will better serve citizens and use technology to enhance public services, empowering citizens to be more participatory in engaging government, as well as businesses, to make more informed decisions and meaningful choices in their daily living.