NTIS, AirAsia explore urban drone deliveries

March 6, 2021

CYBERJAYA: Malaysian consumers can look forward to a new shopping experience as Teleport, the logistics venture of AirAsia Digital will explore drone delivery services.

This it is undertaking by partnering with the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), the Lead Secretariat of the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS).

The leading low-cost airlines' group is also developing a long-term viability of urban drone delivery service.

The pilot project for the delivery of goods from AirAsia's e-commerce platforms including AirAsia shop using automated drones is set to be carried out through a 6-month phased approach at the third National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) test site in Cyberjaya.

The service is currently at the testing stage with two local drone operators VStream Revolution Sdn Bhd and Meraque Services Sdn Bhd.

The first phase of the project in Cyberjaya seeks to assess the capability, experience, approval process, deployment readiness and service expansion of the drone operators. The service will be deployed upon a successful trial phase and might be expanded beyond the sandbox environment.

As a national solution coordination and facilitation centre, NTIS provides a critical step by eliminating all or selected processes and/or regulatory requirements to accelerate the development of innovative solutions from the Research & Development stage to being commercially ready.

In realising this project, NTIS has been working closely with Malaysia's sole technical regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) to ensure the safety and security of Unmanned Air Services in urban settings meets the requirements and regulations as set by CAAM. This is to ensure that public safety remains the highest priority whilst facilitating technology advancement.

"We are poised to be the frontrunner in the DroneTech industry, which is expected to generate USD127 billion by 2025," said Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

He added that the global market size-specific to drone package delivery was USD642.4 million in 2019, and is projected to reach USD7.388 billion in 2027.

"The drone delivery of goods can be expanded and scaled up beyond e-commerce, such as the delivery of essential or medical supplies to areas that are rural, remote, or affected by natural disasters," he said.

He said NTIS is happy to invite other drone tech startups to scale up by connecting them with regulators, telcos and other ecosystem players.

"Our role is to develop a more vibrant drone tech ecosystem, and this can be expedited with government intervention".

Khairy said the pandemic has presented us the opportunity to accelerate structural changes to the economy, in terms of digitisation, digitalisation, automation and robotics, and we must embrace that change to vault Malaysia towards becoming an innovation-driven economy.

"We believe this strategic partnership between AirAsia and MaGIC will speed things up and signal the beginning of the nation's urban drone delivery revolution."

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Group Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, said the group has been at the forefront of innovation since we were established 20 years ago.

"As we are in it for the long-run, we are excited to be partnering with MaGIC to explore urban drone delivery - an innovative logistic solution that will ultimately improve efficiency and operational excellence as well as accelerate the pace of delivery in urban areas.

"Besides, drone delivery enables us to keep up with the ever-growing demand for e-commerce and remain agile when facing a shifting economic landscape," he said.

Fernandes said more importantly this innovation would allow us to create new and high-tech job opportunities for Malaysians.

"The ability to pivot is part of our culture and while some are losing their jobs in aviation, we offer a second chance for them to build a new career with us through e-commerce.

"As a disruptive leader, we are ready to take on new innovative challenges and embrace the wave of Industry Revolution 4.0 to our advantage. The only way is up and we cannot wait to deliver your orders with AirAsia drones in the near future."