DSO drone engineer flies high

Actions
https://www.mindef.gov.sg/web/wcm/connect/pioneer/acd57b0f-6aff-4778-aabe-8615da97faa1/18feb22_news1_photo1-thumbnail.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE.Z18_1QK41482LG0G10Q8NM8IUA1051-acd57b0f-6aff-4778-aabe-8615da97faa1-nYbLJwc /web/wcm/connect/pioneer/acd57b0f-6aff-4778-aabe-8615da97faa1/18feb22_news1_photo1-thumbnail.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE.Z18_1QK41482LG0G10Q8NM8IUA1051-acd57b0f-6aff-4778-aabe-8615da97faa1-nYbLJwc /web/portal/pioneer/article/regular-article-detail/technology/2022-Q1/18feb22_news1
/web/portal/pioneer/article/regular-article-detail/technology/2022-Q1/18feb22_news1
18feb22_news1
18 Feb 2022 | TECHNOLOGY

DSO drone engineer flies high

Story Koh Eng Beng

Photos Kenneth Lin & courtesy of CPT (NS) Yong

English Melayu

This defence engineer is probably the most serious drone enthusiast in Singapore.

CPT (NS) Yong with a drone prototype that he worked on in Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

This guy takes his passion for aviation and drones very seriously. During his secondary school years, he had already started designing, building and flying model aircraft.

When he went on to polytechnic, he scored a Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors' silver award for co-creating a drone system.

And because of his expertise, he was recruited and trained to be an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) pilot instructor during his National Service (NS).

He even learnt to fly a real aircraft while studying for an aerospace engineering degree in the United States.

CPT (NS) Yong, pictured at the RSAF's static display at this year’s Singapore Airshow 2022, is a Defence Science and Technology Agency scholar.

Today, CPT (NS) Jonathan Yong, 36, is a programme director of aerial robotics in DSO National Laboratories, spearheading the development of UAVs for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

He is part of the DSO team that worked with the Army, DSTA and ST Engineering to create the Veloce 15 (V15) mini-UAV (mUAV) – the first locally developed hybrid Vertical Take-Off and Landing Fixed-Wing system.

"I've been interested in flying stuff since young," he said. "At that time, it wasn't so much about drones for surveillance or aerial photography, it was more for the interest of flying, the excitement that it brings when we sometimes do stuff like ‘combat' flying."

What's the big deal about this UAV?

The V15 can take off and land vertically, making it suitable for operations in tight spaces. It also has greater endurance compared to its Army mUAV predecessor, the Skyblade III, and can be controlled 87 percent further from a range of up to 15km.

And the light-weight mUAV just takes 10 minutes to assemble in the field.

The V15 is the latest in the Army's suite of sensors.

"So this allows the SAF to gather intelligence faster, and also respond to threats more effectively," said CPT (NS) Yong, who serves as a manpower officer or S1 of an NS battalion.

Overcoming setbacks

The development of the V15 started in 2015, and it took CPT (NS) Yong and his colleagues three years to complete.

Along the way, they had to overcome multiple setbacks – one of which took place in a 2018 overseas flight demonstration. The V15 prototype made an unexpected rapid descent, resulting in a hard landing.

"We actually failed quite badly in front of our CEO," said CPT (NS) Yong, then the test pilot.

But the team eventually found the problem and developed a solution.

The experience did not deter the team from taking on "calculated risks" in their push for innovations, said CPT (NS) Yong.

"From that point on, whenever we face challenges, I'm confident that we'll be able to overcome them."

He added: "In our line of work, we don't succeed every time; it's the failures that come along the way that make us grow."

Engineering challenge

A key challenge that the team faced was in creating a UAV that has both long endurance and vertical take-off and landing capabilities.

Traditionally, if you want a UAV that can fly for a long duration, you build a fixed-wing UAV, explained CPT (NS) Yong.

On the other hand, if you want to have a vertical take-off and landing capability, you have to build a rotary-wing UAV, which has a shorter endurance.

But after years of hard work, the DSO engineers were able to build a fixed-wing mUAV that can take off and land vertically, yet has a long endurance of up to three hours – one of the longest in its class.

This was made possible through their research and development breakthroughs in aerodynamic and propulsion system, he added.

Looking to nature for solutions

Whenever CPT (NS) Yong faces a tough engineering problem, he turns to nature for inspiration.

"Especially in the area of flight, we can get inspiration from observing how birds make themselves more streamlined, and we can model after them to make our hardware as efficient as possible," he said.

CPT (NS) Yong completed his undergraduate and postgraduate studies in aerospace at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the United States.

He also taps on the expertise of engineers and researchers across DSO, and works with researchers from local universities.

To stay abreast of the latest developments and research from around the world, he reads technology news regularly.

A V15 mUAV safety officer and operator conducting pre-flight checks before the drone is deployed on a sensing mission at Exercise Forging Sabre 2021.

His greatest moment in his career so far? Seeing the V15 make a successful debut at Exercise Forging Sabre in the United States last year.

"Seeing the fruits of the team's hard work lift off and take to the skies, that brings great joy and excitement to me," he said.

"I look forward to developing the next generation of UAV robotic systems for the SAF."

Suggested Reading
SAF-led team successfully increases shelf life of pooled blood platelets from 1 week to 2 years
SAF-led team successfully increases shelf life of pooled blood platelets from 1 week to 2 years
TECHNOLOGY
20-Oct-22

This technological achievement sets a new benchmark in the medical field, enabling the stockpile and transportation of platelets for both military and civil emergency use.

Neuromorphic tech: the next big thing? Feature
Neuromorphic tech: the next big thing?
TECHNOLOGY
26-Jul-22

In the last of our "DSO 50 Tech" series, we find out how DSO is looking to the future through their research into Neuromorphic Computing, the next realm of AI.

The brain in DSO's video analytics tech Feature
The brain in DSO's video analytics tech
TECHNOLOGY
21-Jul-22

As part of our "DSO 50 Tech" series, find out how DSO's video analytics algorithms have helped the SAF to safeguard Singapore waters. This series dives into the cutting-edge technology that DSO provides the SAF, and marks DSO's 50th anniversary this year.

DSO remains indispensable to SAF, crucial to fourth Service: Dr Ng
DSO remains indispensable to SAF, crucial to fourth Service: Dr Ng
TECHNOLOGY
19-Jul-22

Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen viewed DSO's latest tech during his visit to the DSO50 Technology Showcase commemorating its 50th anniversary.

Inside the hive mind of DSO's drones Feature
Inside the hive mind of DSO's drones
TECHNOLOGY
12-Jul-22

The algorithms developed by this DSO team allow a swarm of drones to make its own decisions in a mission. Find out more in the second of our "DSO 50 Tech" series, which dives into the cutting-edge technology that DSO provides the SAF, and marks DSO's 50th anniversary this year.

DSO's Robot "Dogs" Lead the Way
Cover story
DSO's Robot "Dogs" Lead the Way
TECHNOLOGY
05-Jul-22

Meet the engineers who lead the teams behind the Foxhound and Harrier unmanned vehicles, in the first of our "DSO 50 Tech" series. This series dives into some of the cutting-edge technology that DSO provides the SAF, and marks DSO's 50th anniversary this year.

Teamwork Is Their Secret Weapon in the Fight Against COVID-19
Teamwork Is Their Secret Weapon in the Fight Against COVID-19
TECHNOLOGY
26-Oct-21

When COVID-19 broke out in Singapore's migrant worker dormitories last year, the Defence Technology Community was tasked to help contain the outbreak.

Commemorating 20 years of defence education & training
Commemorating 20 years of defence education & training
MILESTONES
06-Sep-21

As the Temasek Defence Systems Institute (TDSI) celebrates its 20th anniversary, here's a look at how it has contributed to the defence sector.

Army moves towards next gen with new HQ Sense & Strike assets
Cover story
Army moves towards next gen with new HQ Sense & Strike assets
OPS & TRAINING
30-Jun-21

The Next-Generation Army will have better sense and strike capabilities that allow it to see better and shoot faster.