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Sarawak turns to drone technology to protect its rich resources

Abang Johari, flanked by Jamil (third left), Abdul Rahman and others, takes a closer look at a drone.

KUCHING: Sarawak will maximise the use of drone technology to protect its rich resources against illegal logging, illegal fishing and security along its long border.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said Sarawak has been successful in using drones to combat illegal logging activities and its usage would be intensified further soon with the implementation of better internet connectivity and speed through the RM1.5 billion allocation from the state and federal governments.

“In layman’s term, what we need now is a drone ranger and not forest ranger to monitor our forests from the sky. Drones are also capable of doing forest profiling and see things clearly on the ground. This way, we can enhance supervision on our resources,” he told the media

after officiating at the First International Conference on Computer and Drone Applications (Iconda 2017) at a resort in Santubong near here yesterday.

He said the use of drones would make the state more efficient in managing its natural resources, especially its timber in a more sustainable manner.

“We have already declared 2.5 million hectares for the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative. So with this technology (drones) we will be able to monitor the area more effectively. We can also assist the global community in addressing climate change and environmental protection.”

The more than 200 participants at the conference.

Abang Johari, who also Minister of Urban Development and Natural Resources, said with better data gathering through the usage of drones, the government would have more efficient enforcement to tackle illegal logging activities.

The fight against illegal logging would be further enhanced with the acquisition of a four-seater DA42M-NG Diamond special mission aircraft for aerial surveillance and  mapping purposes in the state. The aircraft will be able to take two technicians and two pilots for each mission.

The acquisition of the fixed wing plane, which is made in Austria, was announced recently by Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar. The plane would be ready for deployment by June next year.

On a related issue, the chief minister said with the setting up of the Sarawak Multimedia Authority, the data gathered by the drones could be shared with the relevant agencies while maximising the drone usage to further develop the state.

“That’s why we need to have a big data which I hope will be launched in April next year,” he added.

The three-day conference with the theme ‘Ethical Integration of Computer and Drone Technology for Humanity Sustainability’ is organised by Universiti Tecknologi Mara (UiTM).

A total of 26 academic papers will be presented at the conference which is being attended by 200 people including those from countries like India, Singapore, Iran and Nigeria.

The rector of UiTM Sarawak Professor Dr Jamil Hamali and UiTM Sarawak deputy-vice chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Dr Abdul Rahman Omar were also present at the function.