PUTRAJAYA - The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) will use drones as eyes in the sky to fight crime, smuggling and intrusion at sea.
The agency's director-general Maritime Admiral Datuk Mohd Amdan Kurish said the agency expected to rely on fixed-wing and rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as part of its strategy.
"We are still in the planning stages, but the UAV is the way forward for MMEA to ensure better surveillance of local waters."
MMEA had five regions of jurisdiction nationwide, involving 4,492km of coast line where sea surveillance using ships was no longer sufficient, he said.
"We want to improve our operational efforts by using drones.
"We can further secure our borders, especially sea routes, with the drones," he said, adding that MMEA hoped to acquire the aircraft by 2020.
Adm Mohd Amdan said criminals, especially cigarette smugglers, were becoming increasingly crafty and the agency needed to be ready to face such challenges.
"Cigarette smugglers will use a particular boat filled with contraband cigarettes as a decoy to lure authorities, allowing a group of boats with much more cargo to slip through."
Adm Mohd Amdan said with Malaysia being used as a transit point for human smuggling, the smugglers were known to avoid arousing suspicion by using smaller fishing boats with fewer passengers to slip past the authorities.
"These smaller boats will then rendezvous with a larger ship that will then take a big 'load' of people to neighbouring countries.
"Each illegal immigrant is charged about US$200 (S$253.68) for their trip," he said.
Despite being low in logistical capabilities, Adm Mohd Amdan vowed that the agency would give its all to improve the security of Malaysian waters as well as mount successful search and rescue operations.