Four-legged robot can help SCDF respond to HazMat incidents
The Home Team is looking to deploy Rover-X, a four-legged robotic dog, for missions that are highly risky, and to partner frontline officers in their security patrols. Rover-X is developed jointly by HTX (Home Team Science and Technology Agency) in collaboration with Klass Engineering and Solutions, Ghost Robotics and A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R).
Saving Lives and Properties
A case in point is leakage of hazardous materials in a chemical plant. Rather than sending emergency responders from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) inside the plant and exposing them to the hazardous material (HazMat), Rover-X can be deployed instead. Equipped with sensors and cameras, Rover-X can navigate the plant autonomously and send vital information to a remote command-and-control station (the HazMat Control Vehicle) manned by SCDF officers. The information will enable the SCDF officers to understand the situation within the plant without entering the premises, and make informed decisions on how best to manage the incident.
Lieutenant-Colonel (LTC) Kenneth Mak from SCDF’s HazMat Department said, “SCDF’s HazMat specialists operate in dynamic and risky environments. The deployment of Rover-X instead of our responders in the heart of high-risk areas will improve safety for our people. Combined with the robot’s advanced detection and monitoring capabilities, SCDF can manage HazMat incidents more effectively and safely.”
Rover-X can also be used to support disaster rescue efforts, and in routine chemical plant inspections to capture visuals of the plant as well as to pick up any visual anomalies or gas leakages.
Rover-X’s special capabilities are as follows:
- Sensors and operating modes that enable it to navigate autonomously with minimal human intervention.
- Legged-locomotion and sensors for footstep planning to navigate stairs, kerbs and other terrains that are challenging for traditional robots on tracks or wheels.
- Functional payloads such as cameras, thermal imagers and gas sensors that can detect and measure the concentration level of gases.
- Machine vision and onboard video analytics to obtain insights about Rover-X’s surroundings.
Cheng Wee Kiang, Director of HTX’s Robotics, Automation & Unmanned Systems Centre of Expertise (RAUS CoE), said, “The development of Rover-X will transform the way homeland security operations are carried out in the future. This is part of the robotics strategy that HTX is helming, in partnership with the rest of the Home Team. Rover-X adds to HTX’s array of ground robots and offers different mobility options and payloads to support diverse homeland security operations. Its deployment will enable the Home Team to achieve enhanced efficiency and effectiveness.”
Enhancing Public Safety and Security
“Rover-X started out as a robotic dog for search and rescue operations,” said Ong Ka Hing, Deputy Director (Ground Systems), RAUS CoE, “and we have now broadened its application within the Home Team. Our engineers worked closely with the frontline officers to understand their operations and unique requirements, and rigorously tested out many iterations to design and deliver the capabilities that they need.”
Rover-X's ability to follow an officer on patrol and constantly scan the environment for threats also makes it a potential operational partner for frontline officers of the Singapore Police Force (SPF). Using its video analytics capabilities, Rover-X can detect people in unauthorised areas, as well as look out for unattended baggage. Rover-X can also conduct security patrols independently. With its vigilant scanning and on-board video analytics capabilities, early warning can be provided to SPF on potential threats and enable SPF to respond more promptly.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Lim Jim Kai, of the Future Operations and Planning Department (FOPD) in the Singapore Police Force (SPF), said, "Rover-X can increase the operational effectiveness of SPF. As a frontline partner to Police officers, its ability to detect threats early allows our officers to be better prepared against aggression and violence. Coupled with autonomous navigation and on-board video analytics capabilities, Rover-X can patrol establishments independently. This will allow Police officers to focus on more critical tasks and be more effective in our security duties."
Common Robotics Dashboard
To further strengthen the Home Team’s robotics and automation capabilities, HTX is also developing a common robotics dashboard to enable Home Team officers to monitor and operate a fleet of different robots simultaneously from a command-and-control centre.
The first prototype of the common robotics dashboard is being trialled by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) at Toa Payoh Transport Hub from 17 to 28 Jan 2022. Police officers are using the dashboard to control multiple Multi-purpose All-Terrain Autonomous Robots (M.A.T.A.R.) deployed to patrol the grounds. This trial will enable the Police to simulate different scenarios faced by M.A.T.A.R., such as detection of anomalies, and responses such as dispersing a crowd and responding to the anomaly events.
DSP Lim said, "The common robotics dashboard will better enable us to deploy and operate M.A.T.A.R. as force multipliers. It allows a single operator to have control over multiple frontline robots. ”The common robotics dashboard is developed by HTX in partnership with NCS and A*STAR’s I2R to handle multi-robot operations. It will enable the Home Team to scale up its fleet of robots in future without the need to correspondingly increase manpower to operate them.