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Taking flight as a Home Team engineer

Photo Caption: Ms Vanessia Choo focuses on unmanned aerial systems and ground robotics projects, as well as their technical trials, deployment and product evaluations.

Standing at only 151cm, Ms Vanessia Choo, with her petite frame, might go unnoticed in a crowd. However, at HTX (Home Team Science and Technology Agency), the aerospace engineering major stands out for her contributions to Singapore’s safety and security.

As a fresh graduate from Nanyang Technological University, the 24-year-old joined the Ministry of Home Affairs in July 2019, a few months before HTX, its statutory board, was formed on 1 December 2019. 

Today, as an Engineer (Aerial Systems) with the Robotics, Automation and Unmanned Systems (RAUS) Centre of Expertise (CoE), she focuses on unmanned aerial systems and ground robotics projects, as well as their technical trials, deployment and product evaluations.

She notes: “The Home Team’s 24/7 operation requires technology deployment to be quick, innovative and efficient. The dynamic nature of the work, and the opportunity to contribute to Singapore’s homeland security motivated me to join HTX.”

Indeed, her technical know-how and agility were pushed to the limit last year during the Covid-19 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs or drones) deployment from May to December.

Through the use of drones, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) is able to survey larger areas in a shorter amount of time. Having this heightened surveillance also helps security personnel respond more effectively to threats for improved homeland safety and security.

She was involved in every step, from the identification and survey of the suitable deployment sites to the set-up of drone boxes and management of manpower for daily operations.

“While executing this within such a short timeframe in these uncertain

times was challenging, it made the fruits of our labour much sweeter when we witnessed the first flight,” recalls Vanessia.

She adds: “Given the rigour of Covid-19 operations and the manpower constraints, the deployment of these Extended Visual Line of Sight (EVLOS)/Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) UAVs has helped to augment SPF’s security patrol capabilities over industrial areas.”


Part of a nurturing family

Although she is passionate about learning something new every day at work, Vanessia treasures her HTX colleagues and its culture even more.

She says: “The highlight for me is really the HTX family. Not only do I have a close-knit batch of associates and RAUS teammates, I have supportive mentors who are always there to provide sound career and technical advice.” 

As part of the HTX Science & Technology Associate Programme, she was exposed to other areas of work, such as partnerships with external organisations and agencies in science and technology developments. This has enabled her to see from the perspective of the larger technology ecosystem. 

Currently, Vanessia is working on the exploration of hardening drones against communication interferences. This would ensure that the Home Team’s drones are more resilient for deployment and can better aid in Singapore’s security efforts, she explains.

She adds: “As the use of unmanned systems becomes more pervasive, selected HTX developed solutions could perhaps support wider Whole-of-Government applications. I hope to see the UAV/ground robotics projects that I’m working on deployed in an operational setting.”