Using body cameras, drones to fight pests

Drones and body cameras are among the new tools a local pest control company is using to tackle pesky critters and make work more efficient for its staff.

PestBusters yesterday opened its operations command centre, from which supervisors will be able to oversee live footage streaming from body cameras worn by staff and from drones. This will allow for more thorough inspections for rats, cockroaches and other vermin.

The productivity initiative, the first of its kind, taps the Employment and Employability Institute's Inclusive Growth Programme, a $100 million fund started by the Labour Movement in 2010 to help industries redesign and improve productivity. This way, gains are translated into higher wages for workers.

The New Industrial Road command centre, which costs about $350,000, will have a central viewing station allowing supervisors to coach several workers at once.

Previously, a supervisor would have to be on site to guide each pest control officer.

PestBusters will also use drones to inspect hard-to-reach areas, such as roof gutters and bee hives on trees.

Drone pilot Mohammad Romzi, 46, said that this will allow inspections to be carried out in about a sixth of the time it takes for pest control officers to do them.

He added that it will make work safer for the officers, who will no longer need to climb ladders to peer into gutters. The drones can even spray chemicals onto bee hives from the air.

PestBusters chief executive Thomas Fernandez hopes the new developments will make what is generally considered a tedious, manual job into a "sexy" one.

He said he would have struggled to find the 10 to 20 new employees needed to keep expanding the company. "I can't grow the top line and, at the same time, I'm having a hike on the bottom line because every year, my workers look for bonuses and salary increases.

"But if I can improve productivity, I need not depend so much on the manpower. I can use the same strength of people to do more jobs." Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, who was guest of honour at the opening, commended PestBusters' upgrades. "They show that there is a way for companies to grow their operations and enhance outreach, without depending on a corresponding increase in manpower," he said.

This article was first published on Feb 4, 2016.
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