Singapore-French defence research partnership celebrates 10th anniversary

Gateau d\\\\\\\'anniversaire

Key representatives from SONDRA’s partner organisations commemorating the Alliance’s 10th anniversary: (from left) Prof Chua; Mr Jean-Marc Boutry, Director of ONERA’s Electromagnetism and Radar Department; Mr Chan Yeng Kit; Prof Lesturgie, NUS Vice President (University & Global Relations) Professor Andrew Wee, and Mr Quek (Photo: DSO National Laboratories)

The Supélec ONERA NUS DSO Research Alliance, known as SONDRA, celebrated 10 years of fruitful partnership in defence R&D at an event hosted by the NUS Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering on 16 April 2014.

Gracing the anniversary celebration were Chairman of Singapore’s DSO National Laboratories (DSO) and Permanent Secretary for Defence, Mr Chan Yeng Kit; and French Ambassador to Singapore, His Excellency Benjamin Dubertret. Other attendees included staff, researchers and students from the radar and electromagnetic community; as well as key representatives from Supélec, ONERA, NUS, DSO, the Singapore Ministry of Defence, the French Embassy in Singapore, the French Defense Procurement Agency, and French multinational company Thales.

SONDRA—the joint laboratory involving French graduate school of engineering, Supélec; French aerospace lab, ONERA; NUS and DSO—is located on the outskirts of Paris, and is Singapore's first and only offshore defence R&D laboratory.

Said DSO CEO Mr Quek Gim Pew, the Co-Chairman of SONDRA: “Over the past 10 years, SONDRA has built up strong expertise and a strong network of international partners. I have confidence that SONDRA will continue to break new ground and do exciting research. In addition, SONDRA can act as a bridge to foster scientists’ exchange between France and Singapore.”

Professor Chua Kee Chaing, Head of the NUS Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, said: “Our participation in SONDRA has been fruitful. Research projects carried out under the Alliance have generated leads that we could further explore and expand. On the collaborative front, we are also looking forward to working with our fellow SONDRA partners to expand and deepen research capabilities in the field of electromagnetics and radar that are useful for industry and defence applications.”

Under SONDRA, which was established in April 2004, students and researchers have embarked on overseas exchanges, bringing about cross pollination of ideas which have resulted in upstream and cutting-edge defence research and development. Thirty PhD students have done part or all of their PhDs with SONDRA, with more than 25 per cent staying on at the Alliance after graduating, according to SONDRA Director Professor Marc Lesturgie, who shared about the genesis and milestone achievements of the Alliance at the anniversary event.

In the last decade at SONDRA, important research has been conducted in the area of new electromagnetic and radar concepts that can be further expanded and developed to suit Singapore’s complex radar operating environment, such as its tropical climate and highly urbanised environment. Breakthroughs have also been made in the enhancement of the robustness in current signal processing methods; and in the transmission and receiving of signals.

One example is the novel “low profile wideband multi-polarisation antenna” developed by NUS Engineering graduate students Mr Ray Fang and Mr Ramanan Balakrishnan, who had both been on exchange to SONDRA. A wideband and multi-polarisation antenna enables flexibility in functionality and radar operations. A low profile and low weight antenna is required to address size and weight constraints of platforms such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). In the future, the antenna can be transformed to fit curve surfaces on different platforms.

When interviewed, Ray shared that his overseas exchange stint with SONDRA, from February 2012 to March 2013, broadened his horizons, not just in terms of life experiences, but also in his area of research, microwaves. Ray said that he was able to bring together NUS’ expertise in feed networks and SONDRA’s in antennas during his time abroad. While at SONDRA, Ray was inspired to try out different ideas for his research.

“Sometimes you start to mix and match things that you find. It’s not exactly from Monet’s paintings, but sometimes you see something and it sparks an idea and you try it. Ideas are important,” said Ray, who credited museum visits as one of the ways his experience in France inspired new ideas.

Adding to innovations like Ray’s, SONDRA has yielded achievements in the field by researchers from the other Alliance partners. For example, Mr Frederic Pascal, a SONDRA researcher on a one-year exchange in NUS, has developed a new algorithm which enables stronger imaging and better accuracy in target detection capabilities, with the ability to differentiate between a man-made and a natural object in a captured image.

A technique has also been developed by Ms Chong Chin Yuan, DSO senior researcher and SONDRA postgraduate, which enables the transmission and receiving of multiple signals at the same time. This allows the capturing of more data to provide a more accurate prediction of a target’s location.

Looking back on the success and contributions of SONDRA over the years, its four core partners expressed strong commitment and enthusiasm in embarking on the next phase of the collaboration, where they will continue to deepen research engagements and explore new and relevant research areas under the unique Alliance.

Mis à jour le 22/01/2016