Drone Industry – Present & Future in Thailand



Thailand is taking steps to improve the aviation industry, including the drone sector. If you are setting up a business in Thailand that is involved in the drone industry, the chances are that you would get some incentives in the process. The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand and the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding. It says that they would be offering loans to the domestic manufacturers to develop the Thai aerospace industry, including the drone sector. This will help in the development of aviation systems in the future.

There is great enthusiasm among the Thai entrepreneurs and the existing service companies to deploy drone technology in Thailand. There are businesses that want to use imported or home-grown drone technologies to perform missions within the Thai airspace. However, since the Drone Law has been passed by the Ministry of Transport in 2015, commercial drone activities have been rendered illegal unless special permission is obtained from the ministry. However, if you take permission while opening a business in Thailand, you can carry on your business operations.

The National Innovation Agency of Thailand and the space agency, GISTDA, have organized an annual competition – the UAV Startup. It would offer prizes of about 1 million Thai Baht to the domestic Thai hardware manufacturers. The country is trying to boost the development of technologies. Thailand is a leading exporter of electronic gadgets and equipment and most of the output of the production units are exported. There is no doubt that the government is pushing hard to improve trades. It is the perfect time for doing business in Thailand.

The agricultural drones are unaffected by the ban on urban areas and are being used quite widely these days. The agricultural sector of Thailand accounts for about 8.4% of the GDP. It is one of the biggest users of commercial drone technology. There are plenty of domestic drone firms that help the farmers in their activities, mostly spraying water or pesticides. These firms would either charge per day or sell the drones to the farmers. They even offer financing by partnering with the banks. You can take help from a Startup Business Consultant if you need help figuring out the nuances of your startup. Several domestic firms make custom agricultural drones and it is the industry that the MOU is hoping to facilitate and encourage.

The Royal Thai Air Force hosted the largest drone-related event in Thailand – the Drone Forum. It was a one-day event held in Bangkok, that has attracted more than a thousand civilians and military participants. There were panel discussions and Q&A sessions as well that were held with the national airspace regulator – the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand. With the help of Asia business consulting, you can create a business that helps you reach the pinnacle of success. You can take a good initiative in the drone industry and offer good commercial services in the country.

Drone Firms are taking initiative as well

With the recent developments within Thailand and its neighbors, there is a very positive outlook for the drone industry in south-east Asia. The drone firms in Thailand have often gotten together to discuss the future of drones in Thailand. Today drones can be used for a lot of other jobs in addition to taking selfies. There are drones available for different applications now – delivering medical equipment during an emergency, increasing crop yields, or even fighting fires in tall buildings. You can take advantage of this scenario to further promote the drone industry in Thailand.

A Drone for the Business event took place last year on 20 November to showcase how many different types of drones exist today. The event also showed how well designed these drones are. The panel was hosted at True In-cube in Bangkok Entrepreneurs, in Bangkok. The leading drone businesses from Thailand had been featured which showcased the newest innovations. There were also discussions about the business applications of the unmanned aerial systems and how regulations can support these activities. There is some serious development going on in the drone industry and the efforts are being made from all corners.

The panelists discussed the status of the drone regulations in Thailand. These have been made by agencies like the National Broadcast and Telecommunications Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand. The discussion on the regulations of the non-military drones pointed out some of the issues that concern the federal regulators as well as the industry. The panelists even communicated with the audience who were just members of the public.

There are about 30 drone software and hardware firms in Thailand and about 50 multi-person aerial spraying and photography companies.

There are also a lot of sole proprietors numbering about 1000 to 5000 who are running aerial photography or spraying businesses. According to NBTC, about 80,000 consumers or commercial drones existed in Thailand as of last year. There were some comparisons drawn between the outlines and infrastructure of the smaller drone industry with the advanced state-of-the-art industries that exist in some other countries. The leading countries that have amazing drone companies with permissive drone laws and advanced management software systems are the United States, China, Singapore, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.

China leads the world in terms of hardware. The first wave of startups in terms of drone technology is from Silicon Valley in America. However, drone startups today are pursuing every drone niche imaginable. The committee even talked about how to get the regulatory permissions for drone activities in Thailand and highlighted the complexity of the processes. It was agreed that if Thailand had Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) authorization system and a proper Unmanned Traffic Management, the government could open the skies and it would have been very beneficial for everyone.

But this is not very easy to do as terrorist organizations can make use of this technology to carry explosives and perform unmanned terrorist strikes on airplanes, leading to a large number of casualties. This would cause a huge crackdown on commercial drones. This would even lead to the implementation of anti-drone systems and systems that track drones. So, there is still a lot to be figured out and the government and drone firms are trying to grow further and bridge the gap between themselves. This technology will surely see some growth in the upcoming years.

What are the drone regulations in Thailand

According to the national aviation authority of Thailand – The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand, you can fly a drone in Thailand legally. But some regulations need to be followed. After interpreting the laws, these are some of the most important rules to be followed for flying a drone in Thailand:

  • All drones need to be registered if they have a camera and weigh more than 2 kilograms.
  • If drones weigh more than 25 kilograms, they need to be registered with the Minister of Transport
  • The drone pilots would need to maintain a line of sight with their drones
  • The drones cannot be flown too close to manned aircraft.
  • The drones cannot be flown close to a person, building, construction, or vehicle. There should be a distance of at least 30 meters horizontally.
  • The drones must not be flown in restricted areas without authorization.
  • The drones cannot be flown within 9 km of an airport or any temporary airfield except with special permission.
  • The drones should not be flown higher than 90 meters.

Thailand’s Ministry of Transport offers all the information that you would need to know about drone regulations in Thailand.

The Future of Drones in ASEAN

The key to wider acceptance of the growth of commercial drones is wider acceptance and better regulations from the general public. Drones are starting to play an increasingly important role in optimizing processes in various industries, like offering effectiveness and efficiency in the prioritizing of savings and safety. They have an almost limitless aerial perspective with the ability to gather and analyze data. It can be combined with artificial intelligence and can revolutionize the ways companies inspect or map and survey terrain. They also help with infrastructure and agriculture.

In general, ASEAN Region has a wait-and-see approach to the drone industry. However, there needs to be a leadership role in this industry. There are a lot of regulations that do not promote or support drone innovation. However, there are a lot of regulations regarding the usage of drones, their height, and weight. With proper licensing, the industry can be regulated much better. There are tight rules in some countries like Laos and Myanmar. Singapore has very advanced technologies in terms of drones and is the best among ASEAN countries.

How comfortable are the public in terms of drone delivery

A lot of people are very excited about drone delivery and would love to see them. This is very true in the case of children as they would run towards drones when insight. Drone delivery is something that is exciting for people for sure. Posts about drone deliveries are becoming popular now. However, a lot of people associate drones with danger or invasion of privacy. Drones to some, it sounds synonymous to ‘buzzing’ and an annoying object that flows like an unqualified tourist. However, the job of the commercial industry is to break these stereotypes by showcasing the power of drones.

The labor in South-East Asia is quite cheap compared to Drone Technology

Now delivery costs are quite cheap, but a motorcycle always needs a rider and fuel. However, there would still be a lower bound on the cost. When a delivery with drones are being considered, the irreducible costs are that of the drone and battery depreciation. However, as the technologies improve, it can be expected that these technologies would improve and these costs will decrease over time.

The advantage of drone delivery is speed. The drones can deliver the packages close to the customers. The drones can be launched from a launch site that can be close to a restaurant or mall. Thus, items can be obtained quickly and delivered directly to the customer. There can be a city-wide network of drones perched on rooftops that can be charged and then wait to be allocated for a point-to-point delivery between 2 points in the city. This system would reduce traffic congestion and noise. It will also increase safety since fewer vehicles would be on the road. Local pollution will be decreased and it will improve the convenience of the delivery of small items.

The drone industry in Thailand is developing fast with initiative from both the government agencies and the business firms. Though it depends a lot on consumer market acceptance, it is being expected that drones would become pretty common in the upcoming years.

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Andy Aditya

As Business Startup Specialist, Andy is often hired as a Virtual Director/Consultant to assist Business Owners in Thailand. For total business information and consulting for doing business in Thailand - Pls check - startupinthailand.com
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