Drone testing lab ready by year-end

The 10 drone companies, which passed 1st screening process under 1st NTIS cohort, are related to logistics solutions, agriculture and healthcare


TECHNOLOGY Park Malaysia Corp Sdn Bhd (TPM) is scheduled to unveil The Drone Living Lab for drone testing in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, by the fourth quarter of this year.

TPM chief innovation officer Prof Azra’i Shu’ib said the lab will accommodate the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) screening process that was recently announced by the government.

Azra’i said currently, about 10 drone companies have qualified at the first stage of the NTIS screening.

“Next, they will be screened by the Ministry Sectoral Committee. Once they get the approval, we only have six months to start the sandbox programme. We need this facility ready by then,” he told the press at the Terra Drone Tech Day 2020 in TPM yesterday.

Azra’i Shu’ib says, he land use for the drone lab could be expanded if the project is well accepted by drone players

The government announced in July that tech start-ups based in Malaysia can start applying to participate in the RM100 million NTIS funding. The initiative, parked under the short-term National Economic Recovery Plan, aims to accelerate Malaysia into a high-tech and high-income nation via innovation-driven solutions.

Azra’i said so far, the drone companies, which passed the first screening process under the first NTIS cohort, are related to agriculture, healthcare and logistics solutions.

He said there will be a few cohorts under NTIS programme and the participation from drone-related start-ups have been encouraging.

Azra’i said TPM is now ironing out the regulations and related matters via a series of discussions with the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) for the drone lab approval.

He said TPM has surveyed and taken into consideration all the potential hazards for drone activities around the TPM area, which is surrounded by various structures that could be sensitive to the gadget’s flight path.

The structures include the Astro satellite system, a nearby power grid location, certain residential complexes, schools, as well as highways located near TPM.

“So far, it is in a safe distance, but we need to iron out the mitigation plan so drones would not fly passing unauthorised area, and that we could reduce any potential hazard.”

Azra’i said The Drone Living Lab will be constructed within the 113ha of TPM’s phase three development, which will also be the first artificial intelligence (AI) park in the country. The plot is also the last remaining parcel of the total 277.6ha that belongs to TPM.

As of now, TPM board has agreed to gazette a 2ha (five acres) plot as “drone-zoning” area.

He said the lab’s construction will use part of the budget requested by TPM under the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025).

“The total public fund that we asked for is about RM120 million for the whole development of phase three. As for The Drone Living Lab, we will engage and work with the industry for them to build their mock-up project here.

“For example, if the company is using drones to inspect buildings, they can build their mock-up building or tower within this facility and eventually get their products tested.”

Azra’i said TPM will also build a 200m runway at the testing lab for drones to take off.

“In the future, this facility can assist those who want to be drone pilots before they can get certified by the authorities.”

According to the Drone Market Report 2020, the global drone market will grow from US$22.5 billion (RM93.9 billion) in 2020 to over US$42.8 billion in 2025 at a compound annual growth rate of 13.8%.

However, it was reported that Malaysia is still far from catching up to the total industry due to strict and tedious processes required by CAAM in flying drones.

Azra’i said the land use for the drone lab could be expanded if the project is well accepted by drone players.

“We could develop the whole chain of drone technology from research and development to product development, commercialisation, as well as maintenance and repairs facilities within the park.”

Earlier, TPM signed a memorandum of understanding with Terra Drone Technology Malaysia (TDMY) Sdn Bhd to be part of The Drone Living Lab initiative.

Incorporated in February, TDMY is partially owned by Terra Drone Corp (TDJP), a Tokyo-based technology company and one of the global leaders in the unmanned aerial vehicles’ total solutions provider and enabler. TDJP currently has 15 offices worldwide.