Opportunities abound for Omani SMEs in drone services

The Sultanate’s authorities are urging young Omani tech entrepreneurs, as well as small businesses, to explore opportunities that harness the capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles – also known as drones – to deliver services in a number of areas, notably the food and agriculture sector, aquaculture farming and fisheries, pollution control and the environment.

Drone technology has already been adopted in the Oil & Gas and Logistics sectors, among other related areas, but its potential for further exploitation in a number of food-related areas – a key priority for the Omani government – was highlighted at a webinar hosted by The Business Year last week.

Dr Saud bin Hamoud al Habsi (pictured), Under-Secretary for Fisheries at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, noted: “Drones are already being used in the agriculture field, but there are opportunities for use of this technology in, for example, the monitoring of illegal fishing, tracking of tuna in the open seas, and in environmental issues like oil spills.  We have to unlock these opportunities for the youth of Oman.”

The Ministry, said Dr. Al Habsi, is in continuous dialogue with Oman Technology Fund (OTF), the government-backed venture capital investment fund, which is already supporting a number of tech start-ups involving the use of drones, among other technologies.

One such start-up being supported by OTF is the Intelligence Laboratory (iLab), which is focused on the development and marketing of unmanned surface vessels (USVs) to transport fish feed to offshore aquaculture farms.

Another start-up, receiving funding support from OTF, is TrackBees, which enables Omani beekeepers to manage their bee farms by remotely monitoring temperature, humidity and hive cell activity with the aid of drones.

Working in collaboration with the government-led One Million Date Palms Project, another Omani tech start-up is studying the commercial potential for drones to be used in wide-scale pollination activities and enhancing honey production.

Dr. Al Habsi cited Behar – an ecommerce fisheries auction platform launched by young Omanis with the support of OTF – as an example of the Ministry’s desire to see technology being harnessed to offset the effects of the pandemic.

Technology, he noted, also offers the only attractive route for young Omanis to pursue livelihoods in traditional sectors such as agriculture and fisheries. “When considering opportunities in these traditional sectors, young Omanis will likely look at the business environment first, more than the salary being offered; and technology will facilitate their entry into these fields.”