SINGAPORE: When Singapore Police Force (SPF) trainee Sergeant (SGT) Noorafidah Mohamed Nasar failed her first live firing test, her instructors decided that technology could lend a helping hand.
After all, instructors’ feedback is restricted to what their eyes see – which is limited because they have to stand behind trainees for safety and observe the slightest of body, arm or finger movements. The feedback is delayed as trainees have to complete their rounds and retrieve the target board first.
But the SPF’s latest training advancement, which it showcased on Wednesday (Oct 21), seeks to change all that.
The Enhanced Live Firing Range System (ELFRAS) uses sensors, cameras and data analytics to automatically detect, assess and correct a trainee’s weapon handling, breathing, gaze and posture. The system also shows where the round hits the target board and automates the scoring.
After each round is fired, this information is immediately fed back to two screens for trainees and instructors. This allows instructors to give more detailed and objective feedback, and trainees to make more accurate adjustments to improve their performance.
“The difference (without the system) is that the trainer could only give general feedback,” SGT Noorafidah, 27, said. “After he let me use ELFRAS, he told me in detail where I went wrong.”
Thorough the data, SGT Noorafidah discovered that she was anticipating her pistol’s recoil even before she pulled the trigger, something that affected her aim.
“Using the system helped me a lot because most of the time I’m very nervous,” she said. “I can see where my last bullet landed and adjust my posture and breathing, so it’s now perfect.”
SGT Noorafidah said she did “very well” in her most recent test, and that she now feels more confident handling firearms.
Superintendent of Police Joseph Yoong, head of the Instructional Technology Division of the Training Capability and Development Department, said the new system will complement instructors in improving firearms competency.
“To ensure high standards, we want to invest more in terms of technology; how we can better push up the mark and do training for police officers,” he said.
The SPF has been trialling ELFRAS since June with about 200 selected officers who are first-time shooters undergoing pistol and revolver training at the Home Team Academy live firing range.
The system was co-developed with the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX), which helped identify the full spectrum of human factors that affect shooting performance.
Those involved in the project are getting feedback from trainees and instructors, and analysing ELFRAS-aided shooting performance against a control group.
The trial is expected to end in February next year. If results are “favourable”, SPF said ELFRAS could be used by frontline officers in other Home Team departments. It could also be scaled up for use during the annual live firing certification for SPF officers.
Dr Saravana Kumar, deputy director of HTX’s Human Factors and Simulation Centre of Expertise, said ELFRAS could be used with other types of firearms going forward.
“In the future, I think we might be engaging the tactical units as well,” he said. “They might be using different firearms. But that would be something that we will pursue in a subsequent phase of this project.”
In its current form, most of ELFRAS’ cameras and sensors are located above or to the side of the shooting lane. Sensors are also fixed to a trainee’s weapon and protective goggles or spectacles to detect handling and gaze.
The weapon handling sensor tracks the movement of the weapon before, during and after the trigger is pulled, and identifies trainees’ trigger pulling techniques.
The gaze sensor tracks trainees’ eyes during firing, including whether they focus on aiming or blink while firing. This sensor is first calibrated by requiring trainees to look at different dots on a screen.
However, Dr Saravana said the team has minimised the system’s body or weapon attachments to allow freedom of movement and simulate real-life conditions. The weapon handling sensor has a weight that is negligible, he said.
“For example, for the breathing sensor, we had the option of having the device mounted on the officer’s utility belt,” he added. “But that wasn’t a very viable option because it doesn’t really facilitate motion.”
READ: Police unveil new fast response car with number plate recognition, more secure cabin for suspects
Instead, the breathing sensor is situated to the side of the shooting lane and uses radar-based technology to pick up subtle movements that show how trainees’ breathing affect their firing.
A body posture camera, also fixed at the shooting lane, captures trainees’ body movement and compares it against recommended shooting postures. A high-speed camera captures the shots on the target board.
Senior Staff Sergeant Ang Eng Hau, a firearm instructor with SPF’s Training Command, said ELFRAS helps pick up trainees’ mistakes that the naked eye misses, such as if they pull the trigger too hard or with eyes closed.
“With all these real-time information, the trainer could better guide the shooter in improving their shooting skill,” he said.