South Sumatra to use drone to monitor hotspots

Palembang, S. Sumatra (ANTARA News) - South Sumatra will use an unmanned aircraft, or drone, to monitor hotspots in plantation and forest areas that officers find difficult to reach.

Head of the South Sumatra Forestry Office Sigit Wibowo said in Palembang on Friday that the fixed-wing drone is owned by the National Aeronautics and Space Agency and will be shipped no later than the end of August 2016.

"The fixed-wing drone, with no crew, can cover a distance of 100 kilometers, thus it can be used to monitor the broad expanses of plantation areas," he explained.

He noted that the drone will be stationed in Musi Banyuasin as the district has hundreds of hectares of plantation area belonging to the planted forest industry.

The provincial government has coordinated with the Sinar Mas Group, the company that owns the plantation forest area in Musi Banyuasin, to help provide an operation area for the drone, space for technicians, and a car for transportation.

"By deploying the drone, it is hoped the data will be made available to the relevant agencies more quickly within 1-2 hours after the fires breaks out as compared to waiting for 12 hours to receive data from an observation satellite," he pointed out.

According to Sigit, real-time data is absolutely necessary for the prevention of forest fires that can spread rapidly to other areas.

"The officers on the field should extinguish small fires as if left unattended can be difficult to extinguish since most areas in South Sumatra are peatlands," he pointed out.

South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin has earlier issued a disaster emergency standby status since March 2016 for this area in a bid to prevent forest and land fires.

Land and forest fires in South Sumatra had drawn worldwide attention as it caused haze that spread to the neighboring countries and ravaged some 736,563 hectares of land.

Meanwhile, fires broke out in a 10-hectare area on the Palembang-Inderalaya road crossing on Wednesday (August 3) at around 1 p.m. local time and had spiraled out of control by 5:30 p.m. local time.(*)