Malaysian drone tech takes to the skies

November 30, 2020

“THE drone revolution is happening right now, ” declared Poladrone founder and chief executive officer Cheong Jin Xi.

“Many industries are realising that modern drones, which excel at precision automation and efficient data collection, are able to simplify many dirty, dangerous and difficult tasks.”

Cheong added that even during the economic slowdown, there is still a growing interest in enterprise drones as companies turn to the technology for sustainable solutions.

Poladrone began back in late 2016 with two aerospace engineers who both shared a passion for drone photography and videography, taking a portmanteau of “polaroid” and “drone” as its name.

Today, the company has swelled into a sizable team, driven by its original mission of helping companies realise their businesses potential through the use of drone technology.

Poladrone provides custom, all-in-one services for businesses looking to streamline their workflows and make the shift to Industry 4.0.

The company also provides drone training and certification for beginner, intermediate and advanced pilots through their sister enterprise, Drone Academy Asia.

It’s done so well, it even established itself as a leading business-to-business (B2B) drone solutions provider in South-East Asia, with regional offices in Cyberjaya, Bintulu and Bangkok.

To serve this regional market, Poladrone carries a wide range of enterprise drones, payloads, and accessories – from DJI, FLIR, Sentera, Emlid, GreenValley International, AOSSCI, and other global brands.

But Poladrone has also engineered its own proprietary solutions – a series of flagship precision agriculture drones called Oryctes, and an AI-powered aerial mapping software named Airamap.

Oryctes, launched in August this year, is a product of Poladrone’s extensive agritech and aerial surveying portfolio, which includes clients from eight out of the top 10 largest oil palm plantation companies in Malaysia.

Through working closely with these plantations to map and analyse a total of over 800,000ha, Poladrone was inspired to develop Oryctes as the world’s first precision spot spraying drone for oil palm.

This has elevated Poladrone as a serious player in the global agriculture drone market, an industry projected to grow over four times in value from US$1.2bil in 2020 to US$5.7bil in 2025.

Shortly after its launch, Oryctes was chosen as one of the six pilot projects by the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) – one of the key initiatives announced under the Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) in recognition of its potential impact on the national agriculture industries.

Upon reflection, Cheong notes that Poladrone’s selection in 2018 into the Global Accelerator Programme by the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre was instrumental in growing the team’s knowledge, exposure, and network with regional partners.

The support for the development of Oryctes and Airamap by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation and the Communications and Multimedia Ministry was also invaluable.

On Poladrone's short-term direction, Cheong plans to raise a Series A round next year, and to set up offices in Indonesia and Vietnam to serve existing clients there better.

“The industry itself is only 10 to 15 years old, ” said Cheong, adding that his team is still discovering new applications for the drones.

“Truly, the future for drones is boundless.”