In recent years, drones have become a technology that is seen as revolutionary by technologists, innovators, industry players and even the public community. According to a report by Drone Industry Insights (Droneii) , the drone market size is forecasted to reach US$54.6 billion by 2030 in and the Asian market is expected to have the highest growth as more drone application is being deployed.
Malaysia is making our mark as well in a few areas such as having top drone services companies like Aerodyne, Meraque and Aonic which are ranked among the best in the world based on their size, growth, funding and visibility as well.
Malaysia is also recognized as one of the progressive countries in the world in terms of drone readiness where Droneii have ranked Malaysia at 21st place in showing that the authority and government is doing its role to support the industry growth. But, there are still a lot that needs to be done, which is why Malaysian Research Accelerator for Technology & Innovation (MRANTI), a MOSTI agency, has been collaborating with all the relevant agencies and authorities in Malaysia to operationalize the Malaysia Drone Technology Action Plan 2022-2030 or MDTAP30.
The Role of Talents in the Drone Industry
Since 2018, we have been engaging with more than 300 drone partners, both from Malaysia and around the world from universities, VCs, technology partners, solution providers and associations that have been working together to grow the DroneTech ecosystem.
All of these efforts have seen impact in terms of adoption as Malaysia is now the biggest drone market user in the region and this is evident especially in key sectors like agriculture, energy, telecommunications and security & surveillance. With more than 110,000 drones registered by SIRIM in Malaysia, we will need to upskill, reskill and develop talents to meet the industry's growing demand.
We did a survey within the local drone training and upskilling ecosystem partners and we have found out that more than 30% of new drone training companies were established between 2020 and 2022. Overall, it is estimated that over 15,000 talents have gone through drone related training and upskilling programs to date. This is highly encouraging as we are engaged by our industry partners that they require talents with related skill sets for their drone solutions and operations.
Certification Opens Window of Opportunity
A significant portion of the companies surveyed offer courses for Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia (SKM) and authorized Remote Pilot Certificate of Competency (RCoC-B). Considering the fee for SKM ranges between RM 6,000 – RM 7,000, and RCoC-B is RM 6,000 – RM 8,000, offerings and uptake of drone courses are highly encouraging as this fee is comparable to premium, high-end upskilling courses in the market.
Muhammad Syafiq bin Salleh, CEO of Asia Drone IoT Technologies highlighted, “We are working together with SG Academy as one of the approved RPTOs in Malaysia and have trained more than 1,500 remote pilots since 2018. Our competitive fee pricing by drone industry experts is an attractive offer to businesses, learning institutions and individuals.” This is a clear demonstration that authorization of piloting is valued in the industry, organization, and market.
Government Incentive & Support
One of the contributing factors to the uptake of drone training was due to government incentives. The Ministry of Human Resources, through its agency Human Resources Development Corporation (HRD Corp), has initiated incentives for interested companies to allow their employees to join drone training. Companies, agencies, GLCs, and even SMEs can now allow their employees to upskill using drone pilot skills at minimal to zero cost as part of internal KPIs for learning and development. Meanwhile, for training companies, registration as a training provider with HRD Corp will help add value to their course offerings. Similarly, as end-users, respective employers' registration with HRD Corp can increase effectiveness up to three times in their training programs due to a very well-established training ecosystem under HRD Corp including drone-related skillset and certification.
According to Mr. Darren Teh, Manager at DJI Academy, the training arm of DJI in Malaysia, “Our programmes such as UAS Pilot Training, Aerial Photography, UAS Inspection took leverage on HRD Corp’s initiative as part of our marketing strategy. So far, we have recorded an encouraging number of drone pilots trained of more than 600 since 2021. These drone pilots in turn reaped the benefit of being eyed by drone companies and employees in various organizations, including GLCs and MNCs as added value to employees' knowledge and widened their horizon for working needs.”
Challenges and Opportunities
There are still challenges, though. The rules and regulations for drones are still evolving, and people want more clarity about them. The good news is that efforts are being made to improve existing regulations and processes to facilitate better adoption while maintaining safe drone operations. The government is also working on raising awareness about drone regulations to make sure everyone is on the same page.
MRANTI together with agencies like HRD Corp, MDEC, MIGHT and training institutions from both industry and government related are currently in the process of building up a Drone Technology Industry Skills Stack framework to better understand existing and future job opportunities or career options that are available within the drone industry. This effort will be a continuous effort to ensure that our talents will be developed to meet the growing demand as well as to be updated with the fast changing technological advancements in the industry.
A Bright Future for Drones in Malaysia
Malaysia is in a great position in the drone world. People are interested, companies are growing, and talents are being nurtured. The future looks promising, especially for industries like agriculture, telecommunications, and oil and gas that can benefit from drone technology. By working together, Malaysia's drone industry is set to soar to new heights, especially with the MDTAP30 initiative led by MRANTI.