KUALA LUMPUR (March 6): AirAsia Group Bhd, via its logistics arm Teleport, is partnering with the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) — the lead secretariat of the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) — to launch the Urban Drone Delivery Sandbox and develop long-term viability of urban drone delivery services.

In a statement today, the low-cost carrier said 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 via a six-month phased approach at the third NTIS test site in Cyberjaya.

The service, which is currently in the testing stage with two local drone operators, VStream Revolution Sdn Bhd and Meraque Services Sdn Bhd, will be deployed upon a successful trial phase and might be expanded beyond the sandbox environment.

The NTIS, a national solution coordination and facilitation centre, provides a critical step by eliminating all or selected processes and/or regulatory requirements to accelerate the development of innovative solutions from the research and development (R&D) stage to being commercially ready.

Moreover, the 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 meet the requirements and regulations as set by the CAAM.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the country is poised to be the front runner in the drone tech industry, which is expected to generate US$127 billion (about RM517.4 billion) by 2025, noting that the global market size specific to drone package delivery was US$642.4 million in 2019 and projected to reach US$7.388 billion in 2027.

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

The minister said the NTIS also welcomes drone tech start-ups 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,” said Khairy.

“The [Covid-19] pandemic has presented us [with] an 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,” he added.

Meanwhile, AirAsia group chief executive officer (CEO) Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said drone delivery will enable AirAsia to keep up with ever-growing demand for e-commerce and remain agile when facing a shifting economic landscape.

“Today, we have disrupted the e-commerce industry, with the AirAsia super app offering food, groceries and duty-free product delivery by our logistics venture, Teleport and more,” said Fernandes.

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

Additionally, he said this innovation will allow the company 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 (IR 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,” said Fernandes.

Yesterday, AirAsia rose 1.08% or one sen to 93.5 sen, valuing it at RM3.47 billion.

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