[Press Release] Poladrone Launches “Oryctes” - World’s First Precision Drone For Oil Palm Plantations

by Ken Khoo

Cyberjaya, Selangor -- Malaysia, 25 August 2020 -- Oryctes, the world’s first precision spot spraying drone designed for oil palm was launched today at a MyDroneX Exclusive event held at Futurise, Cyberjaya.

The 16L drone, which applies spray fluid with centimetre-level precision at the centre of oil palms, was designed and developed by a Malaysian team over a 12-month period, and is the latest development in agrotechnology that capitalises on advancements in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology.

Named after the rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros), Oryctes is engineered to potentially eradicate this agriculture pest which has long been known to inflict extensive damage on young oil palm crops. Oryctes applies pesticide directly onto oil palm crowns to protect growing shoots, which are particularly vulnerable to beetle attacks, thus reducing or eliminating the need for manual spraying which exposes workers to strong chemicals for prolonged periods of time.

According to Cheong Jin Xi, founder and CEO of Poladrone, the innovation behind Oryctes lies in artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms which enable the drone to identify and precisely target the centres of palms through an automated process. First, an aerial mapping drone surveys the land and captures high resolution images; then, Airamap, an AI software analyses the image data to identify palms, and prepares the flight routes; finally, the information is transmitted to Oryctes for it to carry out automatic spraying along the planned flight paths.

“Drones in Malaysia are often seen as toys for the hobbyist, but their commercial use has skyrocketed in recent years. With the advancements in UAV hardware and software, drones have become easier to operate and much more reliable. When developing Oryctes, we intentionally designed it as an entry point to farming automation for local farmers and planters.”

Poladrone CEO, Jin Xi, speaking in the launching event.

Developed with support from Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia via the Global Technology Fund, Oryctes covers up to 2-3 hectares every hour, and comes with a customisable spray system to suit a variety of crops: “spot” mode, ideal for oil palm; and “mist” mode, which is better suited for field crops such as paddy.

The launch of Oryctes was officiated by YB Dato' Saifuddin Abdullah, Minister of Communications and Multimedia and was also attended by Datuk Isham Ishak, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Transport; Surina Shukri, CEO of MDEC; Mahadhir Abd Aziz, CEO of Futurise; Captain Chester Voo Chee Soon; CEO of the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM); and Najib Ibrahim, CEO of Cyberview.

YB Dato' Saifuddin Abdullah, Minister of Communications and Multimedia, trying Oryctes' functionality in the launching event.

In 2017, the Malaysian oil palm industry was valued at 3.8% of Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP), or RM44.8 billion, making it the largest agricultural contributor. Breakthroughs in rhinoceros beetle management could dramatically improve yield, as studies show that up to 25% in crop losses have been observed in incidences of beetle attack.

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