Flying a commercial drone in Malaysia: Part 2 – Practical Tips & Advice

by Henry Yeo
A commercial drone operator from Poladrone  flying the DJI Matrice 300 RTK.

If you have not read our blog post about the legal requirements of flying a commercial drone in Malaysia, we recommend you check it out here.

In this blog post, the second part of our series for first-time commercial drone pilots, we will take a look at practical considerations from purchase to take-off.

Buying a Commercial Drone
A person holding a credit card while making online purchases.
Image via Pixabay

Before you can carry out any drone operation, you will first need to buy a drone. There are a few factors to consider while researching the right drone for yourself.

It may be tempting to buy a drone from overseas online given their cheaper prices. However, before you do, ensure that they are brought in via proper import channels into Malaysia, and that they meet the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) requirement to operate in Malaysian airspace. If the drone does not meet these criteria, you will likely face trouble getting approval from CAAM for your commercial drone operation permit, which is definitely not worth the few RM saved.

First, check that the drone you going to purchase has the proper documentation including a SIRIM certificate. SIRIM certification is extremely important as it certifies that the drone is safe and approved to be used in Malaysia.

You can visit the SIRIM website to check the validity of the SIRIM number given. The Check Your Label App can be used to check both the SIRIM label and MCMC label.

Next, check that the transmission frequency of your drone is within the allocated frequency range. This is to prevent interference with frequencies used in Malaysia airwaves for other purposes such as emergency services and aviation. The notice below issued by the Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) sets it out clearly.

Notice from MCMC regarding frequencies for unmanned aircraft systems. 
Image via MCMC

Commercial drones are valuable investments. For that reason, we recommend getting your drone from a reputable brand and a local dealer that is easily accessible. Global brands such as DJI are able to guarantee the quality of your drone, while a local dealer is able to provide faster response and support when you need it, greatly reducing any downtime for your business.

Consider Getting Drone Insurance

As a commercial drone operator, your income revolves around your drones. Just as for other expensive machinery, your commercial drones should be insured. Generally speaking, there are two types of drone insurance available: Third-Party Liability Insurance and Drone Hull Insurance.

Third-Party Liability Insurance offers protection against accidents caused by the drone or any objects falling from the drone. You could be held legally responsible for injuries or damage to private property, but liability coverage ensures that you will not get caught having to pay out of your pocket.

 A roof badly damaged by drone collision.
Image via Freeimages

Example: During your first drone flight, in your unfamiliarity of the controls, you may accidentally activate the motor lock function, which causes the drone to freefall. If, in the accident, you damage someone’s roof, the third-party liability insurance company will cover the cost of repairing the roof.

However, if your drone is damaged in the process, the cost of repair will be yours to bear. For situations like these, you should consider a drone hull insurance.

Drone Hull Insurance offers protection against damage to your drone and its packaging equipment such as payload(s), ground stations and sensors. Depending on your insurance policy, protection against theft, robbery, unauthorized use, or natural disasters may be included.

Ultimately, it is most important to consult your insurance provider to understand for the details of your insurance policy and coverage.

Upskill Yourself at a Drone Academy

Perhaps quite surprisingly, many commercial drone operators did not own recreational drones before starting to fly commercially. Much like driving schools and flight academies, there are a number of training centres around Malaysia for budding drone operators to learn the craft.

Attending a drone operator training course helps you to learn the fundamentals of drone piloting, hardware, flight mechanics, and equip you with necessary knowledge on local drone regulations. Beginner drone operator courses should include ground training, a briefing on rules and regulations, as well as hands-on flight practices. Some training centres such as Drone Academy Asia provide additional practice opportunities with a flight simulator, and can advise on specific drone models.

Some drone training courses are claimable under the HRDF SBL-KHAS scheme, making it a worthwhile investment. To find a drone training and certification centre near you, refer to this list by Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation.

Operation Guidelines to Keep in Mind
Picture of a person writing down a checklist. 
Image via Unsplash

Here are some general operation guidelines for safe drone operation:

  • Paperwork: Always carry a copy of all the necessary paperwork with you throughout your operation. This will save you a lot of trouble if you are stopped by a law enforcement officer.
  • Only Fly Outdoors: The vast majority of commercial drones are designed for outdoor usage and rely on GPS positioning to stabilise during flight. Do not attempt to operate them indoors unless specified to do so.
  • Check the Surroundings: Be mindful of buildings and structures such as power transmission cables in your vicinity. Birds can also be a potential collision hazard. Always check your surroundings before you fly.
  • Do not Disarm Mid-flight: Do not disarm the motors while the drone is airborne as it will freefall to the ground and will not respond to any control input. Only use this function in an emergency to prevent damage or injury.
  • Battery Storage: Discharge all LiPo batteries before transportation or storage. Use a fireproof bag or fireproof case to store the batteries when not in use.
  • Battery Fire – What to Do: In the event of a battery fire, do not use water to extinguish the fire. LiPo batteries react vigorously with water and produce highly flammable hydrogen gas which could lead to an explosion. Use a foam, CO2, or ABC dry chemical extinguisher instead.
  • Do Not Fly in the Rain: While some drones may be waterproof, it is risky to fly in the rain. Rain can obstruct your line-of-sight with the drone and impair the obstacle avoidance functions of the drone, increasing the likelihood of an accident.

The golden rule when flying a commercial drone is always safety first. As a drone operator, you are responsible for the safety of yourself, your drone, and those around you. Keep in mind that wherever you fly, you are sharing airspace with others. By adopting a mindset of caution, care and preparedness, you will be able to fly commercially smoothly and successfully!

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