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    Feb 05, 2016

    Drone tender for govt agencies to be called

    THE Government is embracing drone technology in a big way this year, as the authorities roll out changes that will make it easier for government agencies to obtain drones for their operations and save on manpower.

    Already, public agencies are testing more than 25 potential uses of drones, it was revealed yesterday.

    These include using drones to survey hard-to-reach potential mosquito-breeding sites to fight dengue, and carrying out inspections at construction sites quickly, using fewer people.

    Now, the Ministry of Transport (MOT), which chairs the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Committee, is set to make drone adoption even simpler for other public agencies.

    The ministry will call for a tender at the end of this month to invite drone providers to bid for a master contract for drone services. They will be tasked with providing drones and technical expertise to agencies which may want to use drones for their operations, MOT said yesterday. The safety and operational standards will be spelt out in the tender as well.

    By taking the lead on this tender, MOT cuts the red tape for other agencies that may find themselves in need of drones. These agencies can now ride on this master contract and get a drone from the vendor within days. Currently, they will have to call for their own tender for drone vendors, which may take weeks.

    "It facilitates and speeds up the whole process so that we can really use and deploy drones in a very effective manner," said Pang Kin Keong, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for Transport, who chairs the committee.

    The committee is also examining how agencies can work together, using drones, and cut back on manpower needs.

    Currently, drones are being tested in construction site inspections. Because these sites are subject to inspection by at least seven public agencies, such as the Building and Construction Authority, Ministry of Manpower and national water agency PUB, work can get disrupted quite frequently if each agency does its own separate inspection.

    To minimise work disruption and reduce duplication, the UAS Committee has launched an online platform that allows the various agencies to indicate what they want to look out for and inspect.

    Inspectors from one lead agency then go down to the site with a drone vendor and capture footage of the area, which takes about two hours. This footage is then uploaded and shared among various agencies, thus doing away with the need for every agency to send its own inspectors and the developer to accommodate multiple inspections.

    "From the developer's perspective as well, it is a huge gain in terms of productivity.

    "One exercise covers all the agencies' requirements - wonderful for the agencies, wonderful for the contractor," said Mr Pang.