Drones to Monitor Floods in Malaysia

Malaysia is to introduce the use of unmanned aircraft systems to monitor the extent of floods and other disasters.

Late last year and early this year the country experienced massive floods in Kelantan, Pahang, Terengganu, Perak, Sabah and Sarawak, which displaced thousands and left at least 20 people dead.

Two Unmanned Aerial Vehicle system unit-Remote Sensing (UAV-RS) have been successfully developed by Malaysia’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), through a partnership called the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (MRSA). The system has already made over 180 hours of test flights.

In a statement earlier this week, MOSTI said:

“Unmanned aircraft systems will improve the efficiency in obtaining information on the Earth’s surface to meet the needs of disaster monitoring, natural resource management and land clearance in addition to the important role of providing information to safeguard national sovereignty and other public utilities in the country”.

Monitoring Land Clearance

The unmanned aircraft are also to be used in natural resource management and monitoring of land clearance.

Land clearance is a major problem in many forested areas of the country such as the Cameron Highlands, where illegal tree felling is widespread and is thought to have contributed to an increase in flood disasters. The area has been stripped of so many trees that, in December last year, the government announced that it aims to plant 1 million trees in the region.

Photo: MOSTI
Photo: MOSTI
Photo: MOSTI
Photo: MOSTI

Real-Time Data

The system includes remote sensing cameras and a mobile ground control station. The system is able to collect information of earth surface within 100km from the control center in real-time, which can then be shared with the relevant agencies. Information gathered via UAV-RS will be used in conjunction with existing satellite remote sensing.

MOSTI said:

“Instant information obtained through the operation of UAV-RS is also able to be combined with information in the database integrated existing in MRSA to generate output that can assist government agencies in their evaluation, prediction, decision and action more quickly and efficiently.”

MRSA is a collaboration with the Multimedia University (MMU) and UST Sdn. Bhd. The system has received recognition from the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), Directorate General Technical Airworthiness (DGTA), and the Royal Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM).

Drone Flood Monitoring in Saudi Arabia

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology located near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, have developed a similar approach to the UAV-RS in Malaysia. In 2013 the university announced that it aims to use drones as part of a new flash flood alert system. The area around the university was particularly badly affected by the 2009 flash floods in Jeddah.