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Indonesia’s Pioneering Efforts in UAV Development

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Many countries are embarking on the development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to spur their digital technology sectors and enhance various applications. The global race to innovate in UAV technology is driven by the need for advanced surveillance, efficient disaster response, precision agriculture, and other critical applications.

Image credits: ugm.ac.id

The Asia-Pacific region is driving much of the innovation in the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sector amid growth through 2032. In Indonesia, two UAVs, Palapa S-1 and Palapa S-2, were showcased at Balairung Gadjah Mada University (UGM). These UAVs boast flight times of 6 and 10 hours, respectively, and are equipped with advanced technology for mapping, disaster monitoring, and surveillance.

They are the innovative creations of Prof Dr Gesang Nugroho from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Universitas Gadjah Mada. Over 12 years, Prof Gesang has secured two patents related to composite moulding technology using Bladder Compression Moulding (BCM). The UAVs also feature autopilot systems and navigational capabilities based on specific coordinates.

Prof Gesang explained that the Palapa S-1 UAV uses Wi-Fi internet telemetry with a range of up to 50 kilometres. Although it has a range capability of up to 300 km, photo and video communication is still limited to a 50 km range. Palapa S-2, which uses satellite telemetry, offers unlimited range. This satellite telemetry system allows the UAV to transmit data in real-time to the ground control station without distance limitations, although Palapa S-2 is still in the body development phase.

UAV development in Indonesia will continue to grow, given the importance of this technology not only for military purposes but also for mapping, surveillance, disaster monitoring, and agricultural and plantation maintenance. He emphasises encouraging the development of domestic component industries and composite aircraft body manufacturing.

According to Prof Gesang, his developed UAVs are much more economical than imported UAVs. A similar class of UAVs sold in Indonesia can cost Rp3 billion, while the Palapa UAVs can be sold for under Rp1 billion. This makes local UAV technology more affordable, and maintenance can be carried out domestically.

In his inaugural speech, “Building the Indonesian UAV Industry,” Prof Gesang highlighted the rapid development of UAV technology and the importance of adopting local technology. He urged society and the government to use domestically researched products to ensure the sustainability of the Invention, Application, and Utilisation (IAU) concept. With proper support, the UAV manufacturing industry in Indonesia is expected to grow and develop.

Prof Gesang emphasised that UAVs have become a revolutionary part of digital technology, transforming various aspects of life, from the military sector to civilian applications. This technology increases efficiency and effectiveness and opens up new opportunities in data management and environmental monitoring through advanced ICT integration.

In the future, integrating advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and big data analytics in UAVs is expected to optimise further the performance and functionality of these unmanned aerial vehicles. AI, for instance, can enhance the autonomous capabilities of UAVs in making real-time decisions, optimising flight paths, and improving mapping and surveillance accuracy.

With the continuous development of UAV technology, Indonesia has a significant opportunity to become a major player in this industry. Thus, UAVs are not just cutting-edge tools for specific purposes but also a representation of the technological capability and innovation of the Indonesian nation in the digital era.

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