Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), popularly referred to as drones, started off as pieces of military equipment but nowadays are more commonly used by hobbyists and for commercial services. Research by Goldman Sachs predicts the global market for commercial drone use will rise to $13 billion from 2016 to 2020. By integrating drones with sensors, data collected can be delivered on a map or model to assist construction, agriculture or disaster relief work among other uses. In Indonesia, it is also seen as a solution for logistics deliveries to smaller islands.
Among Indonesia’s drone service providers is Bandung-based AeroGeosurvey, which was founded in 2016 by Michael Wishnu Wardana Siagian and Ryan Fadhilah Hadi. The company provides aerial mapping mostly for agriculture and construction. The company attracted the attention of Tokyo-based Terra Drone, which acquired AeroGeosurvey in January. Despite being established only three years ago, Terra Drone has already opened 20 branches across the globe.
“Terra Drone scouts local companies as part of its strategy. It aims to become the number one in the world by becoming number one in every country, and by using the most advanced technology,” says Michael, managing director of Terra Drone Indonesia and co-founder of Aero-
Geosurvey. “I believe that by joining forces, we will be able to get technology access across the globe.”
Following the acquisition, the company now has access to technology provided by Terra Drone Corporation. Whenever Terra Drone Indonesia has a new project, the Japanese headquarter will recommend which technology is best applicable, or even which technology from other countries’ projects might be suitable.
“We used to specialize in aerial mapping. From our transition period until now we have used Light Detection and Ranging [LiDAR]. We also conduct monitoring and inspection for oil and gas companies. Now we are able to provide almost any large-coverage project using drones,” says Michael.
The LiDAR technology has been applied in several projects, such as for topographic surveys and mapping of construction sites. The result is IoT-integrated, delivered in a high-resolution and accurate 3D model, and used for reference, decision-making, and project completion monitoring. In March, Terra Drone Indonesia was the first to apply LiDAR in a post-disaster recovery project in Palu, working with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The company has also been working with other big corporates such as PT Wijaya Karya, PT Waskita Karya, PT PLN, and PT Pembangunan Perumahan.
Along the way, according to Michael, the company client base has also been changing. Up until 2016 the majority of clients came from agriculture, but in the last two years it has begun shifting to construction, infrastructure, and buildings, which now account for 60% of overall projects, followed by mining, oil and gas, and agriculture.
“Oil palms can grow up to 20 years, so they only need to be mapped once. On the other hand, construction and mining experience higher frequencies of development than agriculture [so repeat monitoring is required],” Michael explains.
Last year the company handled 39 projects mostly for construction mapping and this year it aims to double this number. The company can handle projects that cover areas ranging from 3,000–20,000 hectares. Terra Drone Indonesia can also ask assistance from the principal or overseas branch when dealing with projects that involve processing large amounts of data if necessary.
The Terra Drone service price depends on several factors such as the total surveyed area, location and its complexity, as well as type of data output. However, Terra Drone Indonesia claims that its price is lower than the market rate because it is able to use alternative components while maintaining standards. Its LiDAR service for example, only costs up to Rp 1 million per hectare whereas other providers can charge up to Rp 1.5 million. This year the company also aims to book multiple billions of rupiah in revenue. Michael believes that the use of drones is becoming more common in Indonesia and he hopes to quadruple the growth targeted by head office.
In general, as a developing country, Indonesia has robust growth in construction projects that can be effectively assisted by drone technology. But he says that if Indonesia is to follow the trend in the global commercial drone market the private sector cannot do it alone. The government must be supportive of the technology and the market must become better educated in trusting the technology. More importantly, the service providers must perform better as there are too many cases where drones simply crash or cannot deliver on clients’ expectations. This causes skepticism among clients who revert to conventional methods, eliminating the advantage of drones in performing dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks.
In terms of competition, Terra Drone Indonesia welcomes competitors as more players will help educate the market and Michael feels the market is big enough for all.
“There are over 40 drone companies in Indonesia, both Indonesian and foreign, and they have different focuses from general to specific tasks. I find that many of them operate only on a local scale, only in their respective provinces. But Terra Drone Indonesia performs on a national scale, even internationally.”
The potential for drone services is great across the country, especially at the regional level, and Terra Drone Indonesia currently serves as the corporation’s hub in Southeast Asia. Michael wants to make Terra Drone Indonesia the major player in the country, as the one-stop solution for drone service provision.