Skyblade III among winners of Defence Technology Prize
By Lester Kok
IT TOOK eight years and three attempts by different teams of engineers before a successful unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can be deployed quickly in battle was developed.
The first variant in 2001, the Skyblade I, could fly very well, but did not have enough operational flexibility and did not have a steerable camera.
Two years after that, Skyblade II addressed these two problems but it was too heavy and needed more upgrades to its computer systems.
The Skyblade III, which took a further three years to develop, was the best of the lot - light, portable and easy to fly.
The new team which worked on Skyblade III is made up of staff from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the DSO National Laboratories, ST Aerospace and the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA).
This team was rewarded for its efforts and was one of the winners of this year's Defence Technology Prize given by the Defence Ministry.
The initial phases for Skyblade III were tough as the project had teething problems due to the different work culture of the various agencies, said Mr Lim Kok Yong, the team's programme manager.
He said Permanent Secretary (Defence Development) Tan Kim Siew played a critical part in keeping the team on track in the beginning.
'Whenever Dr Tan asked for updates, obstacles would just disappear...so he made a lot of difference,' the 38-year-old research engineer said.
A working relationship was finally achieved by the four agencies, and the project began to move along faster than expected, taking only five days for the final testing instead of the allotted 30 days.
Before giving out the awards to the winners yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean said in his speech that a small nation with limited resources like Singapore always has to find innovative solutions to face the changing and complex challenges.
'Not all advanced technology and platforms are suited to our environment and needs; and even if they were, they are not always available from the open market - every country guards carefully its best technology,' he said.
DPM Teo said integration and cooperation among the defence technology agencies were key factors in developing successful locally built advanced systems such as the Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle and the Pegasus Light Weight Howitzer.
Five teams and two individuals received the awards this year. Apart from the UAV team, another team from DSTA, SAF and Singapore Technologies Kinetics won the prize for designing and building a counter-mine vehicle known as the TrailBlazer.
Other team winners worked on technologies such as advanced radar, advanced antennas and cyber security.
Individual prizes were given to Dr Geoffrey Tan from DSO for his research and development, and Mr William Lau, Ministry of Defence's deputy chief research and technology officer, for his leadership and significant contribution.
The Defence Technology Prize was started in 1989 to recognise teams and individuals with outstanding achievements and contribution to Singapore's defence.
In the past 20 years, 61 projects won the Defence Technology team prize, and 90 per cent of these projects had been fielded to the SAF. Three-quarters of this are still being used. Of the 25 individual winners, 22 are still working in the defence industry.
Mr Teo said: 'Such achievements demonstrate the true success of the Defence Technology Prize as not just an academic pursuit of advanced technologies, but application-inspired technologies with high potential for fielding.'
Photo caption: SKYBLADE III TEAM: Posing with the unmanned aerial vehicle are (from left) Mr Merrill Ho, technical manager with ST Aerospace; Lieutenant-Colonel Ong Chee Boon, deputy commander of the Combat Intelligence Group with the Singapore Armed Forces; Mr Lim Kok Yong, programme manager with DSO National Laboratories; Mr Tung Yan Foo, programme manager (naval systems) with DSTA; and Mr Gabriel Gan, systems engineer with ST Aerospace. -- ST PHOTOS: KEVIN LIM
Photo caption: TRAILBLAZER TEAM: The members received an award for designing and building this counter-mine vehicle. From left are Mr Goh Wei Jun, project engineer with DSTA; Mr Roger Lim Tow Hong, programme manager (land systems) with DSTA; Mr Chew Ming Chiang, project chief engineer with ST Kinetics; Major Phang Nyit Sin, weapon staff officer with the SAF; Lt-Col Roy Foo with the SAF; and Mr Gary Wong, project manager with DSTA.