Clearer skies for drone industry soon


PETALING JAYA: The ecosystem governing the sale and operations of drones, as well as the training of drone operators, is expected to gain more clarity with the issuance of three directives from the Civil Aviation Authority Malaysia (CAAM).

CAAM said that as of March 1, all academies and organisations currently offering training to drone pilots or operators would have to be accredited.

The authority, in a statement yesterday, said all organisations that intend to be recognised as CAAM-approved training organisations would have to comply with its directive called CAD 6011 Part 1, which seeks to regulate organisations offering such training.

It is understood that there are currently a dozen such organisations in Malaysia, with each offering its own curriculum.

Last October, CAAM chief executive officer Capt Chester Voo said CAAM had yet to approve any Unmanned Aircraft System/Approved Training Organisation licence for any individual or company in Malaysia, and that no one had been authorised to issue drone operator licences yet.

CAAM has also moved in to address the use of drones in agriculture, which has grown in importance over the past few years as drone technology improved.

Under Part II of CAD 6011, CAAM spelt out the standards, requirements and procedures for individuals and operators who intend to use drones in the agriculture

sector, such as for field surveillance and spraying of pesticides or fertiliser.

The regulation of agriculture drones is important, as even the most basic of these devices weigh 20kg and most are capable of

carrying a load of around 16kg, making them dangerous objects in untrained hands.

Khor Chong Lean, an agriculture drone seller based in Kedah, supports the regulation of these drones, given their potential to cause serious injuries in an accident.

“I spend at least two days training the buyers of my drones so that they know how to operate them safely.

“It is not possible to impart that knowledge in just a day, ” said Khor, who imports larges drones before modifying them to suit the exact requirements of his clients, who typically use them for pesticide or fertiliser applications.

The most important CAAM directive issued yesterday pertained to the Special Unmanned Aircraft System Project, which aims to spur investment, research and development activities, and the creation of a robust regulatory framework so that risks and security issues can be adequately addressed, especially in drone operations that are out of the operator’s visual line of sight.

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In an interview with The Star earlier this week, Capt Voo said CAAM would be looking at the sandbox method to allow the drone ecosystem to flourish.

A regulatory sandbox is a framework that allows start-ups to conduct experiments in a controlled environment under the regulator’s supervision.

“Allowing drones for agriculture as well as a host of dangerous work, such as on oil rigs, is very important.

“All these activities have to be subject to a Specific Operations Risk Assessment before drones can be deployed.

“As drone technology continues to evolve, CAAM will continue to facilitate the growth of the industry through the creation of a solid regulatory framework, ” said Capt Voo, adding that recreational drone fliers would also be in the spotlight soon.

“Guidelines for those who fly toy drones (without cameras) around their housing estates are nearly complete and will be launched by the third quarter of this year, ” he said, adding that appropriate directives would be issued to eventually cover all types of drones.

In a Facebook post, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said 46,876 drones were tested and registered with Sirim Bhd between 2015 and 2019, which were then issued with a Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission logo, while an estimated 10,000 drones were registered in 2020.

“As drones continue to evolve and play a larger role in everyday lives, the Transport Ministry and CAAM will continue to engage the industry so as to support its growth without compromising public safety and security, ” he said.

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