5 mins read

Taking to the Skies

November 10, 2022
Mohd Safuan Mohd Zairi, Chief Ecosystem Development Officer
5 mins read

Malaysia's Drone Industry Hitting New Heights at the Global Stage

Drone technology is rapidly evolving and becoming more and more commonplace. Drones, which have come a long way since their primary functions of flight and navigation, are now used in various industries.

The potential for growth for drone technology is enormous, as the technology has expanded into new markets such as security, infrastructure, logistics, agriculture, transportation and even education. However, their potential uses are still being explored, and as technology advances, so does their growth potential.

The Global Drone Market is projected to reach US$41.3 billion by 2026 with a 9.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). The Global Drone Market Report 2021-2026 reveals that the commercial drone market today is led regionally by Asia, thanks to China and Japan, while South America and India are growing fastest at the regional and country levels, respectively.

The latest local data suggests that Malaysia has the potential to contribute more than US$12 billion to the national GDP by 2030, which is 4.3% of the global market. This is incredible growth, and it's not hard to see why.

Drones have been used for various commercial purposes in Malaysia, such as agriculture spraying, infrastructure inspection, surveillance, photography, and even delivery. They have also been used for relief operations, including sending critical supplies such as medicines, during floods late last year.

MRANTI was a central facilitating agency for the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry as they set up Special Drone Services Emergency Task Force (PTK2Dron) in response to recent floods. Through PTK2Dron, plans are also in the pipeline to create a nationwide SOP for using drones by private sector companies to assist agencies like the Fire and Rescue Department for future disaster management. Interestingly, the authorities also utilised drones to maintain social safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Endless Possibilities

Today, the integration of drones with IoT or AI technology has created new avenues of application, such as monitoring land and crops, road damage detection, and data analysis.

It is heartening to note that a Malaysian company, Aerodyne, was ranked first among the hundreds of drone services companies in the world last year by Drone Industry Insights (Droneii). The company has been at the forefront of the drone industry, providing innovative solutions for various industries, including agriculture, construction, oil and gas, and power generation.  Other outstanding companies include Meraque, Poladrone, VStream, Alphaswift, Malvus Sense and Aeronerve. These companies are helping to revolutionise the way businesses operate by providing them with quick, efficient, and cost-effective solutions that are changing how we live and work.

For example, Selangor Fruit Valley uses drones to perform real-time soil and field analysis to help farmers identify the best plot of land for planting, irrigation and fertilisation. By doing so, the farm can grow healthier crops.

The global agricultural robot and drone market size and share revenue alone are estimated to grow from US$5.172 billion in 2021 to US$14.12 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 18.21%. 

The demand for agricultural robots and drones is increasing due to their ability to improve the efficiency and accuracy of tasks such as crop monitoring, mapping, and spraying. For example, the Oryctes Dual is the world's first agricultural drone that can carry out both spot and blanket spraying missions. Developed by Poladrone, this innovative drone is specifically designed for oil palm applications. With its unique dual spraying capability, the Oryctes Dual can quickly and efficiently target pests that can cause extensive damage to crops. This makes it an essential tool for any farmer or agricultural worker looking to protect their crops from pests and ensure a high yield.

Indeed, the drone industry is expected to create thousands of new jobs in Malaysia. As the demand for drones increases, so will the need for trained pilots, engineers, and technicians. Due to the high precision and skill required to operate a drone, many new jobs will be in the engineering and technical fields. The drone industry's growth is good news for Malaysia, as it will help create new opportunities for its citizens.

Challenges, Government Commitment

The Malaysian government has shown a solid commitment to supporting the growth of the drone industry, and the country has a strong manufacturing base and is home to several leading electronics companies. This gives the country the potential capability to develop equipment for drone technology applications.

Drone technology is quickly evolving, and with it comes new opportunities for businesses to use drones in their operations. However, before businesses can take advantage of these opportunities, they must abide by the many certifications and compliance requirements that apply to drone operations. These requirements can often result in long periods for permits, limited guidelines for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights, and multi-agency approvals.

To address these issues, there is an urgent need for a coordinated effort among industry, agencies and ministries. The drone community is a rapidly growing and evolving sector, and these challenges must be addressed promptly and effectively. Only by working together can we ensure that drones are used safely and responsibly.

Encouragingly, agencies like MRANTI, Malaysia Productivity Council (MPC) and MyDigital are collaborating with authorities like Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM), JUPEM, MCMC, SIRIM and many others to further improve current operation standards, regulations and even technology improvements to ensure safety for drone flight operations and the surrounding environment which includes general public, private properties and other airspace users such as general aviation and military aircrafts.

MRANTI Beckons

Recognising the potential of this rapidly growing industry, MRANTI aspires to fast-track the growth of the country's DroneTech industry and high-potential companies. MRANTI functions by advocating forward-looking policies, building collaborative ecosystems, facilitating financial assistance opportunities, connecting relevant communities, and facilitating growth programmes.

This holistic approach will enable Malaysia to capitalise on the vast opportunities this industry presents and emerge as a key player in this exciting new field.

Which is why the Malaysian government recently announced the Malaysia Drone Technology Action Plan 2022-2030 (MDTAP30), which is expected to create 100,000 employment opportunities and contribute RM50.71 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2030. 

The action plan will prioritise key missions to test and develop case studies to help regulators, agencies, ministries and even industry players to better understand the requirements and even economic benefits of drone technology application to the nation. Some of the key missions that are currently on-going include the Unmanned Traffic Management System (UTMS) operations – which is set to improve the approval process, besides positively impacting large-scale agriculture drone operations and also  the drone missions in supporting authorities during emergency & disaster recovery crises.

In addition, the Action Plan will seek to increase cooperation between the public and private sectors, besides aspiring to facilitate and review regulations and laws to encourage industry growth further. We will be announcing and sharing more about the MDTAP30 public document soon, so keep following our updates and announcements.

Let’s all work together to make the Malaysian drone industry a world leader in the years to come. 

Indeed, it’s high time we start supporting our local drone businesses! They deserve our backing, and  they have the potential to take Malaysia to new heights!