Red tape puts air mobility industry at a standstill

Malaysia’s 1st flying vehicle has been denied permission to go airborne by the CAAM at the last minute, citing safety reasons

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

ENTREPRENEUR Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof (picture) is pushing to reduce bureaucracy which has hampered progress in the air mobility industry, after the country’s first flying vehicle take-off failed to get approval from regulators in November last year.

The two-passenger prototype vehicle, which was scheduled to make its first test flight at a hangar in Subang, Selangor, was denied permission to go airborne by the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) at the last minute. The regulator cited safety reasons as the location of the demonstration flight was only 200m off from commercial airline and helicopter traffic.

Mohd Redzuan said while his ministry is working with stakeholders to regulate the industry, the government must also work to cut red tape to allow innovation within the industry to prosper.

“(The regulation) remains a work in progress. For as long as we do not give them space to develop, the progress of the air mobility industry will continue to stall,” he said after the launch of Yayasan Bank Rakyat’s Savings Trust Education Programme in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The minister hopes to see the regulatory framework readies within this year, but it is unpromising.

“My estimate is for the regulation to be ready this year, but I cannot guarantee it. There are many factors at play, but the prime minister and I have always stressed the need to remove red tape and shorten bureaucracy so that the industry can thrive,” Mohd Redzuan said.

Singapore witnessed its maiden “flying taxi” take-off in October in a two-minute test run over Marina Bay.

The public demonstration was conducted by German aviation start-up Volocopter which said its aircraft can fly two people and their luggage for up to 30km. The same company did a similar test flight in 2017 in Dubai, where flying vehicles are a plausible way to alleviate traffic.

Mohd Redzuan previously said there were four private initiatives to develop air mobility vehicles in Malaysia that were on the government’s radar.

Aerodyne Geospatial Sdn Bhd — the maker of the flying vehicle Vector — was not the only party which sought the government’s support, the minister said.

Other initiatives to bring flying vehicles into the country include partnerships between local firms and companies in China and the UK.

“There are four — one from the UK, one Malaysian, but they manufacture in Japan. One between a Malaysian company and China, and another initiated by an association of the drone industry in Malaysia,” Mohd Redzuan said.

His comment came after a local daily reported that the maiden flying vehicle take-off will involve a foreign-made prototype called “Super Dron” from a joint venture between EastCap Bhd and Chinese firms, EHang Intelligent Equipment (Guangzhou) Co Ltd and Strong Rich Holdings Ltd.

The passenger drone for the flight test was earlier identified by automotive blog PaulTan.org as the EHang 216, made by Chinese firm Beijing Yi-Hang Creation Science & Technology Co Ltd.

The prototype drone was described as a 360kg unit featuring an aero-cab structure capable of accommodating two passengers, with payload rated at 260kg. It also has a cruising speed of 130kph and a flight range of about 35km.