Singapore Deploys Drones to Monitor Water Reservoirs

31st May 2021


Drones will be deployed at six reservoirs from the end of May, to monitor water quality as well as activities such as illegal fishing, the national water agency PUB said on May 27 in a news release. Starting 31 May, Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drones will fly up to observe water quality and monitor water activities at 6 (of seventeen) of Singapore’s water reservoirs which spread across the nation. The drones will be deployed at MacRitchie Reservoir and Marina Reservoir first, then will be rolled out progressively to Serangoon, Kranji, Lower Seletar and Lower Peirce reservoirs later this year. They will use ST engineering's operating system DroNET, which will embark on pre-programmed flight paths within the reservoir compound (staying clear of residential areas) and will be monitored remotely by an operator.

Photo: MacRitchie Reservoirs by Timothy Newman on Unsplash

 The drones are able to survey large areas of the reservoir and collect comprehensive data, and they are also specially programmed to observe water quality, said PUB in its release.

The water agency has procured customized drones capable of autonomous takeoff and landing from a pod. Equipped with remote sensing systems and a camera for near real-time video analytics, the drones can analyse the water for turbidity and able to identify aquatic plants and algae (excessive growth of aquatic plants and algal blooms could affect the water quality). If it detects plant overgrowth, officers will be alerted. Drones send these alerts to a dedicated Telegram channel that officers can access via their mobile phones. Furthermore, PUB officers will be able to monitor the statistical data and live-video feed from the drone via an online dashboard. If necessary, PUB said officers will be deployed on-site to collect water samples for further laboratory analysis.

Besides this, some of Singapore’s reservoirs being used for recreational activities such as kayaking and fishing. The drones are also using video analytics to flag concerns, such as anglers fishing in non-designated areas or overcrowding of vessels in a particular area.

The flying robots will have three major tasks:

  • Monitoring water quality
  • Monitoring aquatic plant growth
  • Monitoring water activities

At present, these tasks are mostly conducted by PUB officers during daily patrols, the agency estimates, a total of 7,200 hours annually. Employing unmanned drones could help to reduce this by around 70 per cent, with PUB expecting savings of about 5,000 man-hours. The drones are hoped to improve the agency’s operational efficiency. Firstly, because of the saved hours officers can be redirected to other works. Secondly, they will be able to prioritise urgent cases and respond in a timely manner, said PUB.

Photo: Monitoring drone by PUB

“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."
said Mr Yeo Keng Soon, director of PUB’s catchment and waterways department.

Drone flights at Marina and MacRitchie reservoirs will be conducted four days a week, at regular intervals throughout the day. At the other four reservoirs, the frequency of drone flights will be approximately one or two days a week. PUB said the cameras installed on the drones would be used solely for PUB’s operational needs and that personal data in any form, including facial information, would not be collected.

You find here an interesting image about why, where and how it works: Singapore’s drone water monitoring plan in a snapshot: