Drone Fusion, the platform that helps to educate drone professionals of the future, is spreading its wings internationally. In Malaysia, Khoo Hock Aun, member of the executive committee of Malaysia UAV Drone Activist Society, has taken up the challenge to shape the exchange of knowledge between drone researchers, schools and universities and the business community.
“There are a number of drone projects in the pipeline in Malaysia that fit very well within the Drone Fusion platform,” says Khoo Hock Aun, engaged in UAV/Drone technology for agriculture, assessing plant health through remote sensing for oil palm in particular. “That's how I knew that Dr Stephen Poon, Senior Lecturer at Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation, Head of the Center for Integrated Sustainability and Urban Creativity (ISUC) and lead collaborator on UAV/Drone technology in an urban setting is working on several projects .”
Dr Stephen Poon in turn introduced Prof. Ir Ts Dr Vinesh Thiruchelvam, who is the Deputy Vice Chancellor at Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation (APU) and oversees the Center for Research and Development of IoT (CREDIT) along with the other research centres at APU. “We deal with drones at two of our research & innovation centers. At CREDIT, this mainly concerns the design, engineering and technology behind drones, and at ISUC it mainly concerns the applications of drones.”
When asked how far Malaysia is in the field of drone technology, Khoo Hock Aun answers that other countries are further ahead. “China and the US, but also India, are at the forefront of technology. And Europe has come a long way in terms of legislation and regulations. However, Malaysia has come a long way when it comes to drone applications. Moreover, I think that this industry is still so young that almost every newcomer in the market can add cutting edge technology.”
This is confirmed by Prof. Vinesh. “We don't teach how to actually build a drone but we do teach the engineering related modules related to drone assembly hardware and backend software development for simulations & controls. With our student talents and academic researchers, we have completed several projects in which we have researched and developed very specific applications with drones as the core product.”
First drone project
“In our very first project, we investigated how we could use drones to harvest palm oil fruit bunches, as you know that is our largest export product here in Malaysia. Ultimately, this turned out to be unfeasible for various onsite application reasons, even though the full drone was built for in flight motion. But those initial tests showed that the cameras on the drones are indeed useful on palm oil plantations. You can use it to see how dense the vegetation is and how healthy the plants are, and you can also use the UAVs for yield monitoring. This particular drone, built from scratch, additionally won an award at our national MyDroneX competition.” Leveraging on the initial penetration into drone research, a lot of developments have been completed to date, for example applications for 3D mapping of terrains, warehouse inventory management, oil tank farm inspections and road traffic monitoring. Most recently research with drones has been focused on improving the mapping software, augmented reality and AI applications on crime scene (CSI) prediction. The CSI using IR4.0 applications was unique and it was part of a research grant received from the government, Vinesh said.
Dr Stephen Poon then explains how ISUC uses drone applications for Smart Cities, eco-tourism and farming applications. “In my research center we mainly use drone technology in a broader context. You can look at Smart Cities in many ways: IoT, building, infrastructure, construction and urban planning. There are many opportunities for drone tech in all those areas.”
Prof. Vinesh expects drones to play an important role in Malaysia's near future. “Large parts of our surface haven’t been developed. Drones can help to map our countryside better. And I know that our aviation authority has advanced plans to better train more potential drone pilots. I expect that the use and applications of drones will increase considerably. There are already plans for delivery and the transportation of medicines with drones.”
Khoo Hock Aun: “There is a lot of interest in using drones in all sectors in Malaysia - from construction, oil & gas, infrastructure, farming, tourism, urban planning, etc. They all need people. Not only people that will be able to control drones, but also to design, maintain and devise applications. I predict a great future for the drone industry. And that is exactly why we want to join the Drone Fusion platform. I think there are different needs in different countries. That is why it is good that we can learn from each other.”
Because there are still plenty of challenges, he continues. “The total cost of operation will have to go down, just like the flying time has to go up. And the payload should be bigger. That requires a lot of research and that in turn requires a lot of people who can carry out that research.”
Drone Fusion and ADW Hybrid
During ADW Hybrid, 18-20 January 2022, Drone Fusion will be launched officially. For more information visit: https://www.amsterdamdroneweek.com/amsterdam-hybrid/