Showcasing Army Tech
06 Jun 2022

Visitors to the Army Open House 2022 found themselves fascinated with Quad the robotic dog and a new way of shooting that leverages real-time image processing – both of which were exhibits prepared by DSTA’s technologists!

The DSTA teams behind the Quadrupedal Unmanned Ground Vehicle (Q-UGV) and SMASH Smartshooter exhibits – for which they are better known as – were swarmed with questions. As they explained how they harnessed technologies for new applications to enhance the SAF’s capabilities in the modern battlefield, the teams also demonstrated how the two exhibits worked. The Army Open House was held from 28 to 30 May 2022.

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We caught up with team members Programme Manager (Small Arms) Toh Kay How and Senior Engineer (Land Systems) Quek Yong Jian to find out more about their work.

Tell us more about the two exhibits!

Yong Jian: With its highly agile legs, the Q-UGV is more flexible than conventional wheeled or tracked robots, which allows it to walk on cluttered terrains. This enables it to relieve humans of mundane and dangerous tasks, such as security patrols and operations in hazardous or cluttered urban environments. In addition, the Q-UGV can be deployed alongside soldiers to enhance their situational awareness.

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Kay How: Shooting requires a high level of concentration, so when soldiers are fatigued or under stressful conditions, their shot accuracy may decrease over time. The SMASH Smartshooter can be mounted onto rifles, after which the rifle scope can utilise its onboard computer to process captured videos in real time and detect potential targets based on its algorithm. It can then compute the ideal position to aim at, in order to achieve the highest hit probability. Once the soldier confirms the target on the computer’s display screen with the lock button and holds the trigger, the rifle fires automatically when the crosshair aligns with the target, which helps augment our soldiers’ shot accuracy.

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Could you share more about your work?

Yong Jian: Our team focuses on robotics, and we are always on the lookout for potential new applications and how we can add greater value to the SAF with our work in robotics and unmanned technologies. For instance, we integrated the Q-UGV with a robotics command, control, and communication system – which acts as the robot’s brain – to enable more effective communication between the Q-UGV and other robots so it can better take part in coordinated missions. We even developed the system in house to make sure it could be customised to our unique needs.

Kay How: My team and I are responsible for the acquisition and system management of small arms weapons, ammunition and related accessories for the SAF, and we are constantly exploring new technologies with potential applications in this domain. We chanced upon the SMASH Smartshooter during our usual tech search, and observed that it could be useful with its target tracking and night fighting capabilities. That led us to recommend it to the Army for further assessments.

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Any interesting encounters or memorable moments at the Army Open House?

Yong Jian: Way too many to count! There were a lot of kids who really looked like they enjoyed playing with our robotic dog. It was very heartwarming to see them patting the dog, which made all our hard work in putting this exhibit together worth every minute. Hopefully the experience has made them interested to learn more about robotics!

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank my teammates for their excellent teamwork in managing the large turnout. Everyone took it upon himself to engage the visitors and explain more about our work, demonstrate how to command the robot, and also manage the crowd. This ensured all the visitors had a positive experience with the robotic dog.

Kay How: Our work in DSTA has always been classified, and it’s something we cannot share even with our kids and relatives. The Army Open House provided a great platform for us to highlight the work we do and the roles we play in strengthening Singapore’s defence, not just with our loved ones but also members of the public. It was also a fun and fruitful event where we got to meet many tech enthusiasts who share our common interest in military equipment and our developments for national defence.

Any future plans?

Yong Jian: We are working closely with the Army to trial the Q-UGV across various operational scenarios, including Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief missions where the environment may require complex manoeuvring skills. In terms of robotics, we are also exploring other ways to further improve how robots can interact with the environment and work alongside our soldiers for stronger man-unmanned teaming.

Kay How: We are currently conducting trials with the Army to help identify potential applications of the system. Our team will also continue to explore emerging tech in small arm weapons that will enhance our soldiers’ performance and strengthen national defence.

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Team members from SMASH Smartshooter and Q-UGV (from left to right), Programme Manager (Small Arms) Toh Kay How, Head (Small Arms Systems) Lewis Lo, Head Capability Development (Unmanned Ground Vehicles) Bryan Ng, and Senior Engineer (Land Systems) Quek Yong Jian.

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