Drones are multifaceted in the way they entice hobbyists and innovators alike. They can be used for filming, for business purposes such as logistics, or even just for fun (drone racing, anyone?).
The functions and industries that are related to drones have vastly increased over the years, but one thing remains constant—there are rules and regulations that control or limit how or where these drones can be used.
So where can drone enthusiasts in Malaysia go to experiment with, test, and fully optimise what their drones are capable of?
When it comes to being a one-stop drone shop, Area 57 wants to leave no stone unturned. To understand the role and impact that Area 57 hopes to play, we have to zoom out a little to take a look at the bigger picture.
A key player to take note of is the Technology Park Malaysia Corporation (TPM), the innovation facilitator and technology enabler of Malaysia. Established by the Ministry of Finance, Malaysia in 1996, it is now being consolidated with Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) into a technology commercialisation agency.
Who’s Who: TPM operates under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI). As the national driver of innovation and technology, TPM manages and operates a 686-acre technology park campus in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur. With its physical incubator and tech infrastructure, it is the only 4th generation incubator service provider locally offering a comprehensive range of services.
A conducive environment for drone tech growth
Back to Area 57, it’s a 5-acre integrated ecosystem with a Research-to-Commercialisation centre to accelerate drone tech innovations and talent development. It comes equipped with facilities like a 100-metre drone runway, a 300 square metre drone netting, drone-testing mockup sites, prototype development manufacturing equipment, a services and maintenance workshop, and sees itself as a one-stop centre for drone communities.
Area 57’s greater goals include the following:
- Increase the number of certified drone pilots, operators, and technicians
- Increase the number of homegrown drone products
- Job creation for pilots, operators, developers, trainers, and technicians
- Cost reduction in drone services and maintenance
Since its launch in September, drone players have already had a chance to experience what the initiative has to offer. One of them is VStream Revolution, a company that specialises in providing drone solutions for industrial and commercial use.
They listed the benefits they experienced as the following:
- Location: “The most convenient place for a drone operator to conduct flight tests, proof of concept, training, and other research and development.”
- Facilities: “[It] has an incubator, innovation, and business centre.”
- Collaboration opportunities: “Other agencies, like MIMOS, and universities, like APU, are within Area 57.”
Saravanan Chettiar, VStream Revolution’s CEO, mentioned that by leveraging Area 57’s resources, they were able to conduct assessments to confirm the drone’s airworthiness and pilot competency. After that early experience, they started using Area 57 for all their training.
GeoPrecision Tech had a similar positive encounter. Their business focuses on mapping, soil surveying, asset tagging, and resource mapping. One project of note they’re worked on is tree inventory and volume estimation for Sarawak Forest Corporation. They have found Area 57 very useful to get additional field testing done while networking.
The CEO of the company, Izwan shared, “In fact, we were the ones who prepared the initial proposal paper of Area 57 for the submission to the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia. We were part of the initial task force for Area 57 and among the pioneers of this initiative.”
At the moment Terra Drone focuses on solutions on infrastructure inspections, mapping and image analytics, as per the industrial requirement.
By joining Area 57, Izwan believes that “the participants can get access to support in drone and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) development and manufacturing”.
Area 57 has and will continue to give many startups and enthusiasts the opportunity to transform their businesses and drone technology.
We’ve already seen one homegrown drone provider, Aerodyne gain international recognition as the top-ranked remote sensing company worldwide. They are actually now serving as advisers in Area 57 to help promote further growth in the local ecosystem.
With further testing and certification facilities and equipment to be set up in the near future, Area 57 is poised to play a vital role in developing the drone community here.