Taking Flight: Advancing Malaysian DroneTech Industry

Once pure childhood fantasy, drones are now taking on the world not only as a recreational machine, but are being utilized in several industries for different purposes. These unmanned aerial marvels take our imagination soaring high while we ponder of the known barriers that DroneTech will break in the recent future. Although drones have existed for a while, algorithms and programming that complement drones by taking equipping them with more functionality are still catching up with DroneTech. The industry today has just started scratching the surface of these exciting possibilities.

In this talk, Hazel Hassan from MaGIC, together with panelists Jin Xi Cheong from Poladrone, Dato’ Sri Ganes from Asia Drone, Muhamad Armi Abdul Majid from OFO Tech, and Eddie Bennet from OMADA discussed the advantages, potential, and challenges in the confluence between DroneTech and entrepreneurship. The juncture between the two opens up a new industry of providing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) solutions to existing industries such as agriculture, construction, asset management and others.

Jin Xi Cheong, the founder and CEO of Poladrone, started the company in 2016 to expand Drone Tech in the commercial industry. The award-winning company is one of the first companies to provide customizable UAV solutions in Malaysia. Due to current lack of technological advances, the agriculture sector was one of the first sectors to approach Poladrone as they saw the potential in using DroneTech to aid with data collection, automation, spraying, and others. However, the rising number of dronepreneurs has enabled DroneTech to penetrate other industries such as security, surveillance, and infrastructure construction.

Muhamad Armi from OFO Tech described dronepeneurship as the process of planning, launching and running a drone-based business. Nowadays, Drone Tech is getting more popular and since 2016, Malaysia has experienced a dronepreneurship phenomenon. The technology continues to grow with positive strength and is steadily maturing. The growth of dronepreneurship is possible due to several factors such as a strong demand in infrastructure construction and agriculture, readily available training and support, as well as established standardization and well-defined regulatory framework. OFO is currently exploring newer dimensions for DroneTech application. Among their contributions are creating awareness in different sectors on the application of DroneTech. This awareness is also spread to students through seminars and talks conducted in universities.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0) has been changing lives rapidly. “You cannot drive technology without talents,” Dato Sri Ganes believes that it is important to cultivate IR4.0 talent, and to build talent before tech. According to him, Malaysia has a talent problem that urgently needs addressing in order for us to propel ourselves better for the future of technology. More data scientists and analysts are needed to develop Drone Tech further. Dronepreneurs need to go through a certified drone operator proficiency programme that trains them to fly the drones, analyze, as well as present data such as photos or those obtained from Artificial Intelligence (AI) usage.

With the exponential rise in dronepreneurship businesses, collaboration is more important than competition at this point as the industry has just started taking flight. Asia Drone is currently taking initiatives such as training and upskilling young professionals who are already in the climate, as well as school leavers where they create entry level talents for the TVET climate. DroneTech is also used to introduce STEM in schools to encourage children to be a part of the industry.

Collaboration is essential in elevating the industry and Eddie Bennet believes that collaboration of talent and vision will improve drone application rapidly. It is important to think carefully on regulations as the technology develops as well as to not only understand the technology, application, and social issues, but also the roadmap or vision for the country. He believes young people are major contributors to this as they are more familiar with IR4.0 changes. However, there are several challenges in developing DroneTech in Malaysia as it has one of the most rigorous regulations and processing is a long wait. It makes it difficult for dronepreneurs to operate in the country, even though many of these regulations do not apply to the application of drones in industries like agriculture. In training, having no official framework or certification for drone operators in Malaysia is the biggest challenge.

The drone industry is growing at an increasing rate and the path ahead remains a mystery. However, Jin Xi believes that data collaboration will improve the ecosystem as dronepreneurs can share findings and localize the solution. Besides that, drones can also be used for underwater application and Dato Sri Ganes believes that when this technology is further explored and lifts off, it will be revolutionary. However, awareness has to be spread so people realize the importance of DroneTech. By having public figures advocating for the industry, more eyes will be opened and more potential can be explored. Drones, being one of the pillars of IR4.0, will one day be a normal part of our lives.

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