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Drones, Today & Tomorrow

From bomb strikes to cinematography, how have we welcomed predators to our tellies and life.

There was a time when Malaysians were expecting to see a flying car, which turned out to be just a drone but drone by any other name is still a potent and increasingly normal presence.

Drones have taken many forms over the years, from being operated as a surveillance tool to weaponising them to carrying out industrial, military and creative jobs.

Being an aviation fan myself, becoming a pilot would have obviously been dream job. But as luck would have it, I found myself landing in a Public Relations agency with one if its client being an aircraft manufacturer.

As interesting as it was planning and being at aviation events and seeing various aircraft up close, and some which were even not permitted to the general public. There was still something missing. Being in the air.

So to do that, I did the next best thing and got myself a DJI Mavic Mini.

Barely 3 minutes into the flight, it indicated that the battery was low despite being charged a full 8 hours the day before. Something wasn’t right, so I brought it back to the store where I bought in hopes of an exchange. Long story short, they were out of stock so I got a full refund instead.

Although it was short 3 minute affair, it was way better than any flight simulators I’ve flown!

While my motive behind getting a drone was to have an aerial view akin to being in the cockpit and of course the shots, drones have a far greater role in today’s world.

Op Penawar, a joint collaboration between the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) and the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) was formed to monitor public movement via drones when the Movement Control Order was imposed.

Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Drones, equipped with heat-sensing technology and speakers were used to monitor areas around town centres and the Klang Valley. These drones could also emit a warning siren and advice the public to comply with the MCO regulations in Malay, Mandarin and Tamil.

Also transforming the way we once did things is OFO Tech Sdn Bhd, a local technology solution provider which has centered its business on unmanned aerial vehicles.

Raking in over 5,000 operation flight time hours, the company has successfully mapped more than 25,000KM of roads and highways and over 800,000 hectares of land. With their precise accuracy, drones have demonstrated that they can be a viable alternative to using helicopters to do the same tasks.

It goes without saying that the cost of fuel and pilots for a helicopter greatly exceeds the cost of flying a drone.

Another company to have adapted drones in its operation is one that is no stranger to the aviation industry, Airbus.

Airbus, through its maintenance repair and overhaul centers in the Americas, has adapted drones as a maintenance tool. Named the Advanced Inspection Drone, the drone accelerates and facilitates visual checks to considerably reducing aircraft downtime and increasing the quality of inspection reports.

Fitted with an integral visual camera, a laser-based obstacle detection sensor, flight planner software and an Airbus’ aircraft inspection software analysis tool, the drone captures and transfers images for detailed analysis using a software system.

The operator then localises and measures visual damage on the aircraft’s surface by comparing it with the aircraft’s digital mock-up. The software also automatically generates an inspection report.

The entire inspection process on the Advanced Inspection Drone takes only three hours in contrast to the traditional visual inspection of up to one day.

The once feared technology is now changing the way we see and do things. Love it or hate, it is already here and its adaptation will only increase.

Undeniably the rapid drone adaptation brings the fear of job security very real as companies look to automate their processes.

As geopolitical tensions rise with trade wars and tech wars, nations are forced to innovate or be left behind. Could this be the driving force pushing companies and countries alike into adaptation?

But I must say, I do wonder every now and then of how fun it would be if I had only waited for another drone instead. The pleasure of being on the captain’s seat and flying freely to taking surreal pictures and videos.

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