Our lives depend heavily on rivers. Unfortunately, many rivers in Malaysia are highly polluted including Sungai Pinang. In fact, Penang is the most water consumption state in the country. One of the major contributing causes to the current situation is the lack of education and awareness of the importance of “clean rivers”. Most of the public don’t have the opportunity to understand how the river system function and how pollution would affect the quality of rivers.

Commonly, the public can only look at or observe the rivers from the roadside with obstructed or limited views. With the advances in technology, drones have become a promising tool to monitor rivers and detect the possible source of pollution. Drones, offer exciting perspectives for monitoring and measuring rivers. The Drone River Care (DRC) program will develop a new drone river monitoring module that delivers innovative ways for water awareness activities.  

Figure 1: Drone-based survey of Amazon river dolphins, Brazil. (Source: Shapiro, A., Anderson, K., Duffy, J., Spina Avino, F., DeBell, L. and Glover-Kapfer, P. 2020. Conservation Technology Series Issue 5: Drones for Conservation. World Wide Fund for Nature, Germany)


The objectives of the Drone River Care (DRC) program are (i) To develop a drone-based river awareness and monitoring program, especially for rivers in Penang; (ii) To promote the importance of clean rivers in our daily life among youth; (iii) To encourage youth to care our rivers for reducing the climate and human impacts on rivers; and (iv) To raise collaborative action in clean rivers with the relevant agencies.

SDG4: To ensure quality education and promote new technologies in river awareness and monitoring programme.  

SDG6: To ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all with the inclusion of awareness on the importance of clean rivers.

SDG13: To ensure the youth (future leaders) are aware of the impact of climate change on water pollution and empower them to ready to combat the climate crisis.

SDG17: Establish the partnership of PBA, Water Watch Penang, USM, and the Youth.


The content and activities of the drone river care (DRC) program are as follows:

  • Drone river care module development

The drone river care module will be divided into two major parts: (1) Theory – Basic knowledge on the role of rivers, pollution, and usage of drone technologies in monitoring rivers will be created; and (2) Practical – river monitoring using a drone at Sungai Ara WWP river education center.

  • Drone purchasing

A drone that is suitable for river monitoring and measurement will be purchased. The same drone will be used for the following years’ drone river care program. After a quick survey, the most appropriate drone for education and some basic monitoring and mapping purposes is DJI Mavic 3 – Camera Drone with 5.1K Video, Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing.

  • Drone river care program

The drone river care program will be implemented at Sungai Area WWP Water Education Centre.  The drone will be used to capture the physical characteristic of the Ara river and also identify the possible sources of pollution in the river.  A simple field note and report will be prepared by the participants.  We expect that the students will share photos or videos taken by drone via their social media. Indirectly, this helps to promote awareness of the importance of clean rivers to their friends and family members.


  • Immediate Outputs:

The immediate output as soon as the programme ends will result in increased awareness of the university students from geography who joined as organizing committee members. This project will also see the empowerment of students to take the lead in the river care project as well as the positive partnerships between the private sector, NGOs, schools, and government agencies. The target output for this programme based on the competition will be:

  1. At least, a total number of 10 students are educated and trained to organize drone river care programme.
  2. At least 50 students participate in the drone river care program. After the program, the participants will be requested to share at least one photo or video taken by the drone to their social media and hashtag “#dronerivercare”, “”cleanriver”, etc, so that the river care message will be shared to their friends, siblings, family members, etc.
  • Long-Term Outcomes:

This project is expected to produce long-term outcomes in river care practices since the uploaded photos or videos will be stored on the social media platform unless the participants remove from their accounts. This helps to promote education in the clean river, sharing and applying knowledge not in only schools, but at home, to friends and colleagues as well.


  1. PBAPP
  2. Universiti Sains Malaysia

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