BY SHARON LING
KUCHING: Sarawak Forestry Corporation’s new GeoDrone initiative will enhance its forest management activities, including monitoring and enforcement.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said drone technology played an important role in ensuring that the state’s forestry resources were well managed and preserved.
“The new drone initiative will help us to monitor the development of our forestry sector, which is important to Sarawak’s economy and contributes a lot of revenue.
“In order to sustain this sector, we have to be innovative in how we preserve it but at the same time give value to it,” he said when launching the initiative at SFC’s corporate office here.
Abang Johari called on SFC to equip the drones with the latest technology available, such as sensors to transmit data directly to its control centre.
“The Sarawak government will support you if you want to acquire this sort of technology,” he added.
SFC has been using drones for its forest management activities since 2015.
The GeoDrone initiative incorporates ICT and geographic information system technology with the drones to enhance the performance of activities such as enforcement, licensing, monitoring of forest health, forest resource inventory, wildlife monitoring and protection of totally protected areas (TPAs).
According to information displayed at the launch, drone surveys can be carried out to estimate the existing balance of timber stock, assess compliance with the stipulated harvesting and environment regulations and detect any encroachment outside licensed timber areas.
SFC’s drone models include the flying wing drone with an average coverage area of 320ha, the “Skywalker” (240ha), Airis T6 (560ha), Tekgra T7 (700-2,000ha) and Hexa multirotor (180ha).
The drones are mainly used to monitor and survey wildlife, monitor harvesting operations and map TPAs and licensed areas, while the Hexa multirotor also monitors TPA boundaries.
SFC chief executive Wong Ting Chung said the corporation currently had 58 drones.
“Eventually we would like to have 200 drones to be able to cover the whole state,” he said.
SFC also exchanged memoranda of understanding (MoU) with GP Pusaka Sdn Bhd, Sarawak Timber Association (STA) and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) for research collaborations.
SFC will work with with GP Pusaka to promote conservation activities by exchanging technical information, carrying out joint studies and research as well as technology transfer in biodiversity conservation.
Under the second MoU, GP Pusaka and STA will jointly conduct research and development on the breeding of batai, a fast-growing industrial plantation species, while SFC will fund the project.
The MoU with Unimas is for developing and strengthening academic and research cooperation on biodiversity conservation practices in Sarawak and for building capacity to assist the industry in forest management certification.