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Drones can solve transport woes in Sabah, says expert

 | September 14, 2017

Capt Sudhir Kumaren says a good drone may be able to send goods to interior villages in future.


KOTA KINABALU: Drone technology provides an excellent opportunity for Sabah to modernise its transportation system at a lower cost and deliver goods fast.

Layang-Layang Helicopter Academy (LLHA) head of training Capt Sudhir Kumaren said due to Sabah’s natural geography, it is not feasible for the government to spend billions of ringgit to build roads just to connect 30 or 40 families in small villages.

He noted that these villages are “rich” in resources, possessing vast land, but remain cash poor because they cannot sell their crops.

“They need to use boats and cars to get to the nearest town to sell their goods.

“The transportation cost itself would eat up their profits. And they cannot bring a large number of goods at one time. So that explains why they have little cash,” he told FMT.

As drone technology progresses, Kumaren believes in a few years’, transportation would be a breeze, collecting goods from remote villages to the “tamu” (market) in towns for sale.

Villagers, he said, would no longer have to fork out a fortune to pay for the transportation of their goods and they could sell as much as they wished, maximising their profits.

While the cost of a good industrial drone that could perform such tasks hovers around US$60,000 (RM251,500) at present, he believes it is far cheaper than building a decent road.

“Sabah is the most inclined to make use of this technology because it is the best option. Besides, it would help Sabah leapfrog the current technology and bring it straight into the future,” he said.

For this reason, he said the academy had invited stakeholders, including government officials, to attend the Unmanned Aerial Services (UAS) Sabah 2017 symposium, the first to be held in the country in December.

Kumaren said the symposium would introduce participants to the regulations governing the use of drones in the country, the safety measures, business opportunities and many other issues relating to the technology.

He noted that the technology is highly popular in Sabah with online retailers reporting between 200 and 300 drones of all sizes being sold daily. This is about half the 600 sold in the country.

At this rate, he said it is also important to educate drone users and potential users on how to use drones safely.

He pointed out that the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) had issued a list of regulations on the use of drones, including the need for a licence for drones weighing more than 25kg and a prohibition to fly over certain areas.

Drones have long been considered as part of photography equipment and tourists even bring their drones to take better pictures of their vacation time here.

However, there is also a dark side to the technology such as when it is used to spy on people or to take incriminating photos for blackmail.

“Such incidents do happen but we want to emphasise more on safety because now we don’t see a lot of drones in our airspace yet.

“But one day, it will happen and we want to inculcate the culture of ‘safety-first’ before it is too late.”

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