Our sunny island-state is well-known for its prized jewel, Changi Airport. The modern marvel has been consistently ranked as one of Asia’s best-connected airports with over 100 airlines and routes to more than 380 cities worldwide. Yet, Changi Airport is just one part of Singapore’s aviation cluster – a thriving hub that has made Singapore a Centre of Excellence for aviation knowledge.
Behind the scenes of this vibrant hub, a team of committed professionals from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) strive daily to push new frontiers for the aviation industry. Their team includes scholar, Quah Ming Ren, an officer from the Aviation Industry Division, Unmanned Aviation Programme Office (UAPO).
Ming Ren’s primary role is in the realm of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or commonly known as drones. His responsibility includes connecting with internal and external stakeholders to review regulations on UAS and to push the boundaries of this emerging technology. He takes time off his schedule and shares with us more about how the CAAS Overseas Undergraduate Scholarship opened doors for him to soar into this arena.
Taking the plunge
When looking into options for his future, Ming Ren knew that he wanted a career which would enable him to have a significant impact on Singapore’s success as a nation. “Aviation has long been my passion. The CAAS Overseas Undergraduate Scholarship offer stood out because of the organisation’s role in shaping Singapore’s aviation landscape and the wide spectrum of opportunities in the civil aviation field that it offers,” he says.
The scholarship afforded him the opportunity to pursue his education at the prestigious Imperial College London, where he graduated with a Master of Engineering, specialising in aeronautical engineering.
It also provided an avenue to intern with the CAAS during his holidays. During which, Ming Ren was attached to the Airworthiness and Flight Operations division, a department responsible for maintaining safety at aviation-related organisations. He was given access to Changi Airport airside and aerospace companies, and was tasked to search for solutions to improve the efficiency of airworthiness directives, that instruct on how to restore safety in an aircraft.
He recalls that it was through his internship that he first began to grasp how CAAS manages operations and policy-making. This, he says, provided him with a deeper understanding of CAAS’s work and has since embedded within him a deep appreciation of the effort put in to ensure aviation safety.
Quah Ming Ren
CAAS Overseas Undergraduate Scholar
Unmanned Aviation Programme Office
Soaring into the skies
A particularly memorable experience was when he was part of the team which assessed the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 aircraft. These projects brought him to the USA and France to visit factories and to observe the various complex aircraft manufacturing processes. He recalls, “It was an incredible experience to be able to witness first-hand the design and manufacturing processes for these huge commercial aircraft. It was a real eye-opener to see the amount of work required to bring these creations from the desktop to the real world.”
Today, Ming Ren also sits on the team for Skyways Project. This is a partnership between CAAS and Airbus to explore the possibility of using UAS to deliver parcels in an urban environment. This is the first of its kind, a key milestone for both Singapore and Ming Ren.
“It is both exciting and humbling to be given this opportunity to be part of the team making this breakthrough in the world of drones,” he exclaims.
Ming Ren appreciates how CAAS offers its officers meaningful opportunities like these to support their all-round development. A defining feature of the organisation, he says, is its strong emphasis on helping officers develop and grow.
He cites opportunities for officers to rotate among CAAS’s various divisions, and to be seconded to other ministries like the Ministry of Transport and statutory boards such as the Land Transport Authority or Maritime Port Authority as examples of this.
Also, he adds, CAAS is a huge advocate of training and strongly encourages officers to attend training courses relevant to their job scope. In-house programmes are regularly conducted by CAAS’s training branch, the Singapore Aviation Academy to further encourage staff to upgrade or refresh their skillsets.
Passion will get you there
Ming Ren does not deny that work can be challenging, but he believes that it can be overcome with determination, clear communication and openness to learning. “CAAS officers should be ever ready to rise up to the occasion, taking charge with confidence to initiate innovative changes. They should be ceaselessly curious, fervent in achieving the highest standards and fearless to make change,” he says.
He recommends that potential scholars first understand the organisation’s goals and align these with their own career aspirations and interests. Only then, he declares, will they be setting themselves up for a fulfilling and enriching career. “Passionate CAAS scholars with a relentless drive to succeed can expect a strong career development route in CAAS,” he concludes.