SINGAPORE: If you see drones flying about when visiting Singapore’s Southern Islands, don’t be alarmed. They are part of a wider trial by authorities to bring “low-cost, reliable and long-range connectivity” to these far-flung areas using an under-utilised radio spectrum known as TV White Space.
A six-month trial to use TV White Space for data transmission on five Southern Islands - Kias Island, St John’s Island, Pulau Seringat, Pulau Hantu Besar and Kusu Island - started in August.
The spectrum was chosen as it is less affected by external conditions like sea waves, weather conditions and obstacles like ships, according to a joint release by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). It is also currently under-used here, they explained.
TV White Space, sometimes known as Super Wi-Fi, is the white static seen when tuning analogue TV channels.
The agencies will be working with a local start-up Whizpace to explore the use of the spectrum to support sensor and Internet of Things (IoT) deployments on these islands.
One of these applications include using it to connect and control unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, over some of these islands, the release said. The effectiveness of sending back high-quality video data from these drones in near real-time will be tested too, it added.
A SLA spokesperson told CNA why this could be a productivity boon for the agency as its officers currently conduct regular maintenance inspections, supervise and monitor contractors’ work on these islands.
“With reliable network connectivity, automated drones can be deployed to these islands to capture high-quality aerial footage and enable SLA officers to monitor the ground conditions remotely and carry out prompt maintenance work,” the spokesperson said.
“This is more efficient than today’s practice of deploying manpower to scour the islands very frequently.”
Singapore is the first country in the region to test drone flights using TV White Space airwaves, the agencies said.
Beyond drones, they said the spectrum could also potentially be used to provide Internet connectivity for visitors to St John’s and Kusu islands. This could bring about a more “pleasurable experience”, the release said.
This is not the first time Singapore experimented using TV White Space. A series of pilot projects such as smart metering at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Gardens by the Bay’s public Wi-Fi were launched with support from the then-Infocomm Development Authority, and the agency said these were “well-received” by the users.