Malaysia's drone technology scene is undoubtedly an interesting industry to watch out for, but it is only in the past few years that we have seen greater support for the sector.
Currently, most of the drones in Malaysia are still used for agriculture and security / surveillance purposes. However, drone deliveries could be on the horizon after AirAsia's pilot tests in Cyberjaya in March 2021.
The focus of this scene is also the South Korean company PABLO AIR, which offers drone logistics solutions and delivery services. It is part of the current Global Accelerator Program (GAP) of the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Center (MaGIC), but more on that later.
We spoke to PABLO AIR team leader Derek Lee to learn more about what their involvement with GAP means for the company and for Malaysia's drone technology industry.
I know already
PABLO AIR was launched in 2018 and has already had some notable successes in the delivery of drones. It made the news in December 2020 after its drones made a 50-mile (about 80.6 km) journey from Incheon New Port to two islands, Yeonghuengdo Island and Jawoldo Island.
The journey lasted 1 hour and 20 minutes and was the longest drone flight in Korea to date. Emergency medication and everyday objects were successfully scanned.
Preparing the drones for deliveries / Photo credit: ETNews
Previously, PABLO AIR had also made a 35.7 mile (approx. 57.5 km) journey from Seogwipo Port in Jejudo to Udo Port in 1 hour and 56 minutes.
"Thanks to these successful demonstrations, we will start the actual drone delivery services (for) the delivery of products in convenience stores and medical supplies in the first quarter of 2022," said Derek.
The company also raised $ 8 million in a pre-Series B round in July 2021 and announced that the funds would go towards global expansion.
This also means a possible expansion into Malaysia, which is one of the reasons PABLO AIR joined as part of Cohort 5 GAP.
Find the right local partner
Each country has its own regulations for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) like drones. In Korea, PABLO AIR commended related government agencies for their support and assistance in conducting the drone delivery demonstrations.
But as it expands, it will have to find similar support from foreign governments. "Because it includes aviation regulations and laws, it is very restrictive and provides limited access to a foreign company," added Derek.
"To meet this challenge, we are now turning to government agencies and corporate partners who can help us carry out a Proof of Concept (POC) in Malaysia."
This is where MaGIC's GAP comes in to help the company build its market strategy and expand its partners in Malaysia. An example of what PABLO AIR was able to benefit from is the knowledge of the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS), with which future collaborations are now being discussed.
While this solves a challenge for the startup, there is something else to consider: the localization of its solution.
"For example, some countries appreciate our technology and medical care service, but the other countries may be more interested in small package delivery from a restaurant or logistics company that is looking to replace its supply chain volume with our drone service," said Derek.
"Since our solution ultimately serves both companies and customers (end users), we have to aggressively adapt our business model and our solution to another country with different requirements."
Cooperation on commercialization of drone technology
After expanding into Malaysia, Derek shared what PABLO AIR could do to our local drone technology industry.
"Since we were the first generation of drone startups in South Korea, we know (what) the Korean regulators have done to promote the industry and gradually remove regulatory obstacles."
"For example, if you want to operate drones beyond line of sight (BVLOS), there are a lot of different considerations to be made in order to be approved for operation," he said.
Dictionary time: BVLOS is a term that refers to the operation of UAVs and drones at distances beyond the normal range of vision of the pilot (500 m). BVLOS drone operation offers numerous advantages over regular flight on line of sight and is more cost-effective.
Unmanned system technology / Geospatial World
With PABLO AIR's experience and knowledge, Derek said it would be an honor to work with Malaysian regulators to help shape policy.
To advance the commercialization of drone technology in Malaysia, collaboration will be critical and PABLO AIR's demonstrations will be useful case studies to further develop our industry.
Since this is also a still untapped market, local and international drone companies will have many opportunities and advantages.
- Find out more about PABLO AIR here.
- Read more Drone Tech articles here.
Highlighted image source: PABLO AIR