October 1, 2023

About the Technology

A drone refers to any aerial vehicle that receives remote commands from the machine controller or via software for autonomous flight. Many drones display features like cameras for viewing, collecting, as well as assisting human to analyse visual data, and even assisting the delivery of goods transportation.

The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are aircraft with no people on-board and usually remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs). UAVs can fly for long periods of time at a controlled level of speed and height and have a role in many aspects of aviation. Nowadays, sectors like videography, search and rescue, agriculture and transportation have adopted drone technology.

Background of the Technology

The technology was developed as the first pilotless vehicles in Britain and the USA during the First World War. Britain’s Aerial Target, a small radio-controlled aircraft, was first tested in March 1917, while the American aerial torpedo known as Kettering Bug first flew in October 1918. Although both showed promise in flight tests, neither were used operationally during the war.

During the inter-war, the development and testing of unmanned aircraft continued. In 1935, the British produced a radio-controlled aircraft to be used as targets for training purposes. Sources believed that the term ‘drone’ started to be used at this time, inspired by the name of one of these models, the DH.82B Queen Bee. Radio-controlled drones have also been manufactured in the United States and used for military training.

Drones started to wide its range of roles, such as to acting as traps in combat, launching missiles against fixed targets and dropping leaflets for psychological operations during the Vietnam War. New models became more sophisticated, with improved resolution and the ability to maintain greater height. In recent years, the drone models have been further developed that use variety of technology such as solar power to tackle the problem of fuelling longer flights.

Drones nowadays have many functions, ranging from monitoring climate change to carrying out search operations after natural disasters, photography, filming, and delivering goods. Nonetheless, the most well-known and controversial use is by the military for reconnaissance, surveillance and targeted attacks.

Applications and benefits of the technology

Drones can be equipped with sensors, including ultrasonic, laser or lidar distance sensors, time-of-flight sensors, chemical sensors, and stabilization and orientation sensors. Red, green, and blue sensors collect standard visual red, green and blue wavelengths, and multispectral sensors collect visible and nonvisible wavelengths, such as infrared and ultraviolet. Accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, barometers and GPS are also common drone features.

Integration of drones and internet of things (IoT) technology has created many enterprise applications. Drones working with on-ground IoT sensor networks are able to assist agricultural companies monitor land and crops, energy companies survey power lines and operational equipment. It is also applicable for insurance companies to monitor properties for claims and policies.

Applications and benefits of drone technology by sector include the following:


Drone is used to measure and record the height of crops. It uses lidar remote sensing technology that illuminates the crop with a laser and calculates distance by measuring what is reflected. This can help farmers to optimize agricultural production and promote sustainable farming practices.

Biological monitoring.

Drone with biological sensors fly to unsafe areas to take air or water quality readings. They also can check for the presence of specific micro-organisms and atmospheric elements.

Wildfire monitoring.

Firefighters use drone to survey an affected area to determine the extent of the damage and how fast a fire is spreading. Images taken provide details of the damage.

Sports coverage.

Television networks use drone to capture sporting event footage, such as taped and live flyover footage, that would otherwise be difficult to capture. The use of drones must comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, as well as sports league, venue and local law enforcement agency rules.

Trends of the Technology

The Malaysia’s National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) was first announced as part of the Short-Term Recovery Plan (PENJANA) in June 2020 and subsequently launched on 19 August, 2020. The programme allows researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs to test their products and services in a live environment and qualify for grants to bring those products and services to market. NTIS relaxes certain regulatory requirements to accelerate the development of innovation from the R&D stage to being commercially ready.

The vision of NTIS is to champion local innovation and to create a smoother pathway for Malaysian technology to get to market. This programme is also aimed to be a platform for disruptive technologies that would enable Malaysia to solve some of our grand challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The Malaysian Technology Development Corporation Sdn. Bhd. (MTDC) is the main funding partner for NTIS. Drone technologies have been classified as a new trending technology for Malaysia to be further growing, thus entitling it to be funded under this program. As of the date, MTDC has managed the NTIS funding for the following companies, and its product description respectively that are specifically involving in drone industries:

Meraque Services Sdn Bhd

Meraque Hybrid Drone – the drone with battery and gasoline powered offering more flight time and range. It applies mainly for agriculture and building inspection. Sime Darby Plantations is among the beneficiary of this technology developed by the company.

Poladrone Solutions Sdn Bhd

Orcytes – The battery-power UAV is designed to be capable of spot or blanket spraying of fertiliser and pesticide. This will offer versatility for drone application in agriculture. Many agricultural companies have adopted this technology application into their operation such as FELDA, Thailand Rice Ministry, Sime Darby Plantations as well as Hap Seng Plantations.

Niche Frontiere Sdn Bhd

BVLOS Drones – Swarm drone system that allows multiple drones swarming capability. The drones are capable of flying Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) and in the rain. The drones also have autonomous operation capability to communicate between individual drones to drones during swarming to derive real-time situational awareness and decision-making using AI. The technology however is still under market validation phase.

Alphaswift Industries Sdn Bhd

Alphaswift drone – The UAV is designed to be able to carry loads for delivery services and to solve last mile logistics issues. The drones and its flight software are assembled in-house by the company. The potential customer of this technology is Gamuda Berhad whereas they are still at discussion stage. The Company has just completed its market validation activities NTIS funding.


The drone technology had initially been introduced and developed during the World War I by Western Blocks such as the USA and Britain. Its initial application was certainly to assist the union to win the War and conquering their enemy blocks.

As the time went by, the drone technology has evolved over the past decades. This development has enabled individual as well as industry / commercial players to benefit the technology application, in which it was only being accessible stringently and exclusively by military and defence authorised agencies.

The application of drone has been significantly spreading worldwide. As an individual, the drone is a newer yet a very useful item for generating side income by vlogging through social media platforms especially on YouTube. The technology application has assisted them to improve their attractive video by capturing sights from the eyes of birds. To those who are affordable enough, they have bought drone for sake of their personal uses especially during their family vacation.

Apart from that, the drone technology has been widely applied in many sectors especially in agriculture, wildlife monitoring, network coverage, asset protection and disaster response. The technology has also its significant value for healthcare industries whereas in March 2021, the drone started delivering COVID-19 vaccines to healthcare providers in Ghana as part of the United Nation’s COVAX initiative.

In Malaysia, the drone technology embracement is still lower as it costs higher and requires new skills to learn and adapt. As it is becoming a widely used in various industries, there are more actions to take for encouraging industry players to be adapted with the technology. The government incentive like NTIS programme is believed to be a very good platform for the nationwide to embrace this trending technology.


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  4. Technology and Innovation Fund Unit

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