Poladrone unleashes the Oryctes agricultural spot precision drone
By Tan Jee Yee August 26, 2020
- RTK positioning, spot spraying to curb US$9.7bil loss from rhinoceros beetle infestations
- Integrated with Airamap to provide user-friendly drone information analysis, reporting
Malaysia is one of the largest producers and exporters of palm oil in the world, accounting for 28% of global production and 33% of its exports. But its 4.49 million hectares of palm trees is under threat by a small but ultimately terrifying enemy: the Oryctes Rhinoceros, commonly known as the rhinoceros beetle.
These beetles can inflict serious damage on young oil palm trees. An estimated US$9.65 billion (RM40.25 billion, or 25%) of palm oil yield is lost annually due to rhinoceros beetle pest attacks, which makes monitoring and pesticide use a vital aspect of ensuring the trees mature.
Monitoring and keeping up with 4.49 million hectares of oil palm, however, is a daunting task. Thankfully, a Malaysian drone company is here with an innovative solution.
Poladrone Sdn Bhd, the Malaysian drone startup that has been building unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) solutions utilising drone engineering, has just launched the Oryctes. This spot precision drone is designed specifically for agriculture and to curb rhinoceros beetle infestations at palm oil plantations, hence the namesake. Poladrone has been working closely with some large palm oil players to perfect its solution.
Launched yesterday, at the MyDroneX Exclusive event held at Futurise, Cyberjaya, Oryctes works by spraying pesticidal fluids directly onto the vulnerable spot of the tree using precision spot application technology, instead of spraying the entire tree.
To do this, the drone is aided by Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) positioning, an enhanced GPS that enables centimetre-level spot spraying through a custom nozzle that accurately sprays the fluid at the very centre of the oil palm trees, targeting the beetles that burrow in the growing shoots.
“Today’s launch marks a significant milestone for the nation’s drone industry and I hope that this will set a precedent for not only an increased adoption rate of drone technology in Malaysia but also a boost in fresh technological advancements to help fulfil the nation’s goals of becoming a developed, high-income nation,” says Malaysia’s Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Saifuddin Abdullah, who officiated the event.
“Our talent is abundant and it is time we harness it to modernise traditional methods used even today in major industries across the globe. The global drone service market is expected to reach RM267.4 billion (US$64.12 billion) by 2025. We have tremendous potential to be early birds in this lucrative market and become major players.”
Powered by accuracy
A foldable drone (for easier transporting), Oryctes can cover two to three hectares of spraying every hour. It is available in two models: Oryctes Dual, which features a “spot” mode and a “mist” mode that is more suitable for oil palm; and Oryctes Mist, which only comes with the mist mode and is more suited for large areas of crop fields that require blanket spraying.
Oryctes has also been integrated with Airamap, the advanced artificial intelligence (AI) powered aerial mapping software that provides user-friendly drone information analysis, visualisation and reporting.
Airamap, a fully cloud-based service, enables oil palm tree counting with 99% accuracy, digital terrain mapping, multispectral crop health analysis reporting, data visualisation using 2D heatmaps, digitisation of plantation maps, and other features meant to provide agricultural companies with information used to determine necessary preventive actions and enhance operations to yield healthier crops.
Oryctes users will be able to use Airamap as a dashboard to view past Oryctes spraying mission data and productivity levels, in addition to their aerial mapping information.
“Drones are the next frontier for the global agriculture industry. Our vision for Oryctes is to introduce drone spraying as a competitive alternative to traditional labour-intensive methods by providing improved spraying productivity and quality, and we are excited to be launching this first in Malaysia,” says Cheong Jin Xi (pic, left), Poladrone founder and chief executive officer.
“Oryctes has proven to be a reliable and sustainable pest control method in the agricultural industry, with its high precision spray feature that reduces pesticide usage on crops, and drastically lowers chemical exposure to workers and the environment. We aim to upskill farmers to harness the potential of drone technology with Oryctes, which is fully designed and developed in Malaysia as an ideal entry point to farming automation.”
A joint effort
Oryctes was piloted in Futurise, Cyberjaya, Malaysia’s first Drone Testing Zone (DTZ) that is part of the government’s efforts to drive the National Regulatory Sandbox last year, with UAVs being their case study.
Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM), the Malaysian Survey and Mapping Department (JUPEM), the Ministry of Transport (MoT) and Futurise have since banded together to look into anticipatory innovation regulation and develop guidelines to boost the country’s drone industry.
Oryctes was developed with support from Advanced Agriecological Research Sdn Bhd (AAR), an associate company of Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd and Boustead Plantations Bhd; Genting Plantations Bhd; and the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia (KKMM) through Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), an agency under KKMM.
After a series of discussions, the MoT, CAAM and Futurise cohosted the country’s 1st drone stakeholder engagement session in September 2019, attended by close to 30 ministries, agencies and regulators together with 30 ecosystem players and academicians.
The effort provided the much needed push to the revised Malaysia Civil Aviation Regulations (MCAR) - the framework that Futurise helped craft guidelines for, through the National Regulatory Sandbox (NRS) initiative.
“The launch of Oryctes today is a testament that Malaysians have brilliant cutting-edge solutions that can solve some of the nation’s pressing issues faced by big industries and create new economic drivers for Malaysia,” says Futurise CEO Mahadhir Aziz.
“A lot of the ideas by the people that use applications of highly-disruptive technologies (such as drones) never see the light of day due to nonexistent regulations that stifle the advancement of such technologies. At Futurise, we promise a safe space for innovators to focus solely on the fine-tuning of their solutions while we work on regulatory compliance,” he adds.
Aside from the launch of Oryctes, MyDroneX Exclusive also heard from Captain Chester Voo, the CEO of CAAM on Safety in Drone Technology.
MyDroneX was first launched in 2019 to gather subject-matter experts, enthusiasts, regulators and industry players within the drone technology industry to mobilise efforts in creating a thriving drone ecosystem for Malaysia.
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