Drones are often portrayed as a problem that government officials must solve. How can governments regulate amateur drone enthusiasts, or prevent aerial terrorist attacks, the questions often go.

But here is an antidote to pessimism. Below are five innovative schemes where public officials have used drones to solve policy problems in the region.

1. Shark attack prevention, Australia

dronesbeachsydney

This week, the government of New South Wales, Australia, announced plans to have drones circling popular swimming spots and providing early warning of potential shark attacks.

The US$11.5m plan will see drones trialled to boost aerial surveillance, being cheaper and quicker to launch than traditional helicopter observers.

The information will be combined with data from sonar buoys and eventually made available on a SharkSmart mobile app, the government has told AFP.

2. Flood monitoring, Malaysia

Minister viewing drone

Last year, the east of Malaysia was devastated by floods, displacing thousands of people from their homes.

Now, a new drone built by the Malaysian Government will be able provide real-time information during natural disasters, it was announced this week.

The drone will supplement feeds gathered from more expensive satellite monitoring systems. It will also be used to monitor illegal logging, the government announced.

The US$710,909 device was built by the Ministry for Science, Technology and Innovation; Remote Sensing Agency Malaysia; Multimedia University; and Unmanned Systems Technology.

3. Rice farming, Indonesia

ricefieldsdrone

Using a modified infrared camera attached to a drone, farmers in West Kalimantan will capture data on community rice fields. The project, which has just launched, will provide the community with more accurate data on the spread of diseases, helping prevent harvest failures.

The scheme has US$10,000 in funding from the United Nations’ Pulse Lab in Jakarta, and is paired with the Swandiri Institute.

4. Medicine delivery, Bhutan

matternetdrones

The mountains of Bhutan have perilous roads that are difficult for even the toughest vehicles to cross in winter. So how can local doctors test for diseases, or provide medicines, without support?

A project between the World Health Organization, Prime Minister and Ministry of Health in Bhutan and Matternet – a drones startup, has been testing a new approach.

“It’ll take billions to catch up on road infrastructure and we think that we can do better with today’s technology,” said Matternet’s Paola Santana over email. The drones are 1/10th the cost of traditional vehicles, and don’t require any investment in traditional infrastructure.

“We can reach hard to access locations with vehicles that are very small, needing almost no landing/take off space, and that are minimally invasive,” Satana added.

With Health Minister Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk and Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos. We discussed how quadcopters can take…

Posted by Tshering Tobgay on Monday, 4 August 2014

Matternet is also working with Tokyo University to test the transport of TB samples in cattle across Oceania, and plans to expand this project to support Medicine Sans Frontieres.

5. City planning, Singapore

URApicdrones

Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has been exploring how drones can help with city planning.

Using a technique called photogrammetry – making measurements from photographs – a trial scheme made 3D models of Singapore heritage areas.

“Planners can use these digital models to plan and carry out research, guide restoration, as well as monitor and manage the state of our built heritage in a more effective way,” the agency said.

Drones are also used by the agency to capture cheap aerial images when planning big developments, such as in the Jurong Lake district.

Elsewhere in the island, Shell uses drones to inspect flare stacks in oil refineries – proving cheaper and safer than asking people to do it.

And SingPost has just tested the world’s first delivery of a parcel over water using a drone. In case you missed it, the video is below.

Do you have an innovative drone scheme that should be featured by GovInsider? Let us know: Joshua@GovInsider.asia