Building Drone Tech with Multidisciplinary Aptitude

Ir. Narendran Ramasenderan spearheading UAS skillsets building at CREDIT, APU
According to the Malaysian Research Accelerator for Technology and Innovation (MRANTI), which currently leads the national Drone Technology (MyDroneTech) industry development initiative, the drone tech market in Malaysia is projected to contribute RM50 billion to the GDP and create 100,000 job opportunities by 2030.1

While the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) market is set to revitalize various industries across the gamut from logistics to factory operation management, the demand for UAS skillsets in Malaysia is now seen skyrocketing.

Leading the Centre of Research and Development of IoT (CREDIT) at Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU), Ir. Narendran Ramasenderan, Senior Lecturer at the School of Engineering (SoE) is taking a pivotal role in spearheading aerial drone projects.
Leading the Centre of Research and Development of IoT (CREDIT) at Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU), Ir. Narendran Ramasenderan, Senior Lecturer at the School of Engineering (SoE) who is taking a pivotal role in spearheading aerial drone projects, is now readying to demonstrate and field test APU’s firefighting and flood assistance drones with novices he trained.

Way before their projects got endorsed by the disaster authorities in Malaysia, Ir. Naren and his team have earned multiple national and international recognitions – the winner of MYStartup Hackathon X DNB 2023, grand prize winner of the Intel Industry-University Challenge 2022 (flood-assist drone), bronze prize winner of Bitgram International Exposition of Electric Power Technology, BIXPO 2022 (smart fire fighting drone), and many more.

Ir. Narendran Ramasenderan (2nd from right) is working on a drone with his novices at the Centre of Research and Development of IoT (CREDIT), APU.
Ir Naren received his Master's degree in global solar production engineering from the Technical University of Berlin, Germany, and has accumulated vast industrial experiences in photovoltaic engineering, and silicon crystal growth automation from Ruhr, the German industrial heartland, Ir. Naren's expedition into drone tech has proven to set APU’s engineering graduates apart from their domestic peers.

“My current foray into drone tech is to very much dovetail APU’s current engineering forte into robotics, specifically autonomous robots as I leverage our engineering students as the future talents in the drone industry with hands-on skills,” introed Ir. Naren – APU’s first drone pilot by Malaysian law endorsed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM).

Ir. Naren explained his intention of acquiring a Remote Pilot Certificate of Competency (RCoC-B). “As my research and work with the various aerial drone projects in APU progressed, we managed to secure a partnership with the Malaysian fire brigade through MRANTI to participate in the Drone technology task force to alleviate and help the flood rescue operation in 2022.

“However, as per the civil aviation law in Malaysia, only registered pilots can fly a drone in Malaysia, and as such, to participate in the exercise, I had to register so that APU could join the task force,” he said.

This eligibility will enable Ir. Naren to train more drone pilots at APU, therefore, not only CREDIT members could participate in drone projects with industrial partners but also equip upcoming graduates with the relevant skillset to excel in their future careers.

“I hope to further develop our solution to incorporate swarm capabilities and more advanced AI features to increase its capability,” said Ir. Naren whose expertise is in industrial automation and autonomous machines to synergize the various hardware and software elements within the artificial intelligence, data analytics, and simulation, leveraging them towards application-centric engineering applications.

Ir. Narendran Ramasenderan (seated, 1st from left) posed with his CREDIT team members who won multiple national and international awards with their purpose-built drones, a testimony of meeting the demanding multitude of the work environment.
Established in 2016, CREDIT is anchored on the School of Computing, School of Engineering, and School of Technology which have since trained and equipped over 10,000 students. It is a testbed and prototype centre for various industry-academic partnerships having established projects with various multinational companies.

The projects undertaken by CREDIT are woven into students’ studies, which infuses the industrial horizontals and technology verticals to keep them abreast on the industrial landscape and helps grow their competencies towards maintaining APU’s 100% employability track record through their industry-tested skill stacks and project portfolios.

“Our programmes emphasise hands-on skills and industry-ready graduates by incorporating the industry needs into the engineering curriculum more palatable to the government bodies, especially given the huge focus we now place on industry-relevant projects in their classroom assignments,” added Ir. Naren who currently registered as an international professional engineer license with Australia, Germany and Malaysia.

Reflecting on the various drone projects he had participated with his students which won multiple awards, Ir. Naren summed up that these were the synthesis of multi-disciplinary knowledge and skills.

“At CREDIT, we leverage students from across the computing and engineering spectrum to create cohesive and diverse teams. It also builds character as they work within the constraint of a timeline based on the contest’s due date and the need to be creative to solve the problems with the resources at hand.

“Furthermore, they are taught to design, build and troubleshoot the prototype for pilot deployment and in some cases full deployment as we work with industrial partners, engaging them in real-life scenarios which mimic closely their working life once they graduate. These experiences are valuable and much sought after by employers, as they show their resilience and capability to perform well under stress, ” he further elaborated.

On a larger perspective, Ir. Naren foresaw the most sought-after skillsets for the Malaysian drone tech industry would be in the field of software and hardware integration, primarily dealing with customized AI solutions embedded in various specific applications and the ability to design and customize the drone design, payload and overall system to meet the demanding multitude of the work environment.

“The skillsets in demand would require a team of engineers with a high degree of multidisciplinary aptitude, working in collaboration to calibrate and troubleshoot the various issues. This is a perfect fit for the engineering programmes at APU, which gear our students through various multidisciplinary projects in their final year project work,” underlined Ir. Naren.