Singapore’s national water agency – PUB – will soon start to deploy Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drones to monitor water quality and water activities at six of its 17 reservoirs. The drones are equipped with remote-sensing systems and a camera for near real-time video analytics.
The six reservoirs were chosen using a range of factors such as the agency’s operational needs, the size and accessibility of the reservoirs, and the frequency of water activities.
Monitoring the reservoirs is currently conducted by daily patrols. PUB states that this involves approximately 7,200 man-hours each year at the six reservoirs. It estimates that about 5,000 man-hours will be saved by having unmanned drones assist the patrols. The drones’ video analytics enable it to flag potential concerns – such as fishing in non-designated areas – and alert officers via their mobile phones for a quick response.
Mr Yeo Keng Soon, director of PUB’s Catchment and Waterways Department, said: “With the drones, we can channel manpower to more critical works such as the inspection and maintenance of reservoir gates, as well as pump and valve operations. The drones also act as an early warning system that enhances our response time to the myriad of issues that our officers grapple with on a daily basis.”
To address concerns from the public regarding their safety or privacy, PUB stated that each drone is equipped with backup systems to enhance its reliability. In the event of a problem, operators would be available to take over the drones and land them safely. PUB also stated that the cameras installed on the drones are used solely for its operational needs, and that personal data in any form would not be collected.
“With 17 reservoirs – which are an important water supply source for Singapore – under our care, it can be a challenge manpower-wise to effectively monitor what goes on at each reservoir and ensure the reservoirs are in optimal condition. Our use of drones is in line with PUB’s commitment to leverage technology as part of the SMART PUB roadmap to improve our operations and meet future needs, “ said Keng Soon.