Minggu, 07 April 2019

The Employment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Against Illegal Logging




Illegal logging is the activity of logging, transporting and selling timber which does not have permission from local authorities and is a form of factual threat around illegal borders. Although illegal logging rates are certainly difficult to obtain due to illegal activities, some reliable sources indicate that more than half of all illegal logging activities in the world occur in the Amazon watershed, Central Africa, Southeast Asia, Russia and some countries of Balkan. ”A collaborative study between the United Kingdom and Indonesia in 1998 indicated that around 40% of all logging activities were illegal, with a value of US $ 365 million”[1]. “A more recent study comparing legal logging with domestic consumption coupled with exports indicates that 88% of all logging activities are illegal logging”[2].


According to Ministry of Forestry data in 2006, the area of forest damaged and unable to function optimally has reached 59.6 million hectares of 120.35 million hectares of forest area in Indonesia, with deforestation in the last five years reaching 2.83 million hectares per year. If this condition is maintained, where Sumatra and Kalimantan have lost their forests, then forests in Sulawesi and Papua will experience the same thing. According to the analysis of the World Bank, forests in Sulawesi are expected to disappear in 2020. The condition of illegal logging if left uninterrupted without serious handling, it is not impossible that in the next few years our earth will not have forests anymore. This will certainly be a burden for the next generation. In principle, the earth is not inherited from our predecessors, but loans from our next generation.





As an air force personnel, our tasks is not only to maintain air territorial sovereignty and create air supremacy, but also to maintain territorial security, both from the threat of other countries and from domestic threats, such as terrorism, rebellion and smuggling. One of the illegal activities that is the concern of the government and the air force today is illegal logging. The government is working hard and empowering all existing components to fight these illegal activities, including empowering air force defense equipment, where one of the tasks of the air force is to assist the government in handling illegal activities including illegal logging.

With defense equipment owned such as helicopters and maritime reconnaissance aircraft, the Air Force can assist the government in carrying out the war against illegal logging which is rampant, especially in rural areas where access can be quickly reached by air. On the other hand, coordination with other agencies such as the forestry, police and army ministries can be quickly implemented although there are still many limitations. However, in its implementation there are still some obstacles that allow illegal logging actors to immediately hide and flee when they find out the existence of air force aircraft that carry out these reconnaissance. In addition, other probles that will be faced were:

  1. The limited endurance of the aircraft carrying out the reconnaissance mission.
  2. Lots number of crew involved.
  3. High operational costs, and
  4. High demand for aircraft maintenance.


At present, with the development of aviation technology, especially unmanned aircraft technology, the limitations mentioned above can at least be overcome. Unmanned aircraft technology has indeed been developing since the 1970s where the aircraft were used for reconnaissance activities into enemy areas. Now, where war is no longer sweeping many countries, the use of drones for military operations other than war continues to develop.


However, the development of unmanned aircraft technology continues to progress, both in form, specifications and weapon capabilities. The use of unmanned aircraft for security purposes is also increasing. Some institutions other than the air force such as the navy, police and border guards also use this technology to support the implementation of their duties. Thus, the use of unmanned aircraft technology can also be applied to the task of the air force in supporting the government against illegal logging.






            Along with development of robotics and automation technology in various fields, the use of UAV to support the implementation of government programs is increasingly being improved. The close communication and coordination between state institutions also facilitates the use of UAV technology in all fields, especially as we are discussing, resistance to illegal logging. The use of this technology will certainly have a very good future with several advantages compared to conventional aircraft technology that has been used today. Some of these advantages include:


  1. Long Endurance Flight Compared to Conventional Aircraft. Observations, surveillance and reconnaissance flight mission using conventional aircraft have endurance limitations. For example, Boeing 737-400 aircraft used for surveillance missions with full tanks can carry out their duties for up to 5 hours. But in its implementation, the crew will not fly the aircraft during that time without changing shifts. With the existing UAV technology, endurance Medium Altittude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV in one flight mission can reach more than 20 hours, crew members who carrying out flight missions can also carry out shift changes with the aircraft still in the air while carrying out surveillance. This is of course in addition to saving, it can also streamline crew change times and carry out surveillance and reconnaissance missions. 


  1. Easy in Maintenance. The use of UAV as a support vehicle in against illegal logging, in addition to having a long endurance advantage is also very easy to maintain. In the era of digitization and computerization, problems of problems that exist in the UAV system can be known quickly and accurately, so that the implementation of maintenance can be done easily and quickly. Besides that, the system in UAV aircraft is also fairly simple and not as complex as conventional manned aircraft. Maintenance crews who work also are not too many, so that it can indirectly reduce personnel needs in maintenance and optimize the use of human power for other tasks.


  1. Low Operational Cost. Lets see, a Boeing 737-400 which is used for surveillance with full tank can only fly for around 6 hours, the fuel consumption is 3000 liters/hrs. In a simple calculation, this aircraft has cost 18.000 litres of fuel for one flight, and if we calculate it by US$ 1/litre it will cost around US$ 18.000 for one flight. Then we can compare with the one of the UAV that have tank capacity 150 litres, if the fuel consumption is 10 litres/hrs, then this UAV could fly for around 15 hours and just cost not more than US$ 150. From this simple calculation, we can assumpt that the operational cost will be very low than we use the conventional aircraft for the surveillance mission.


  1. Realtime Imagery. One of the advantages of using UAV is “realtime imagery”. This feature can be supported by the payload which is installed on the UAV. The pilot can also see every objects that UAV see in realtime by the uplink and downlink communication between the UAV and Ground Control Station (GCS) during flight time. In addition, images obtained from uav and seen in the GCS can also be forwarded to various agencies and authorities involved in the operation mission, so that decision making can be done as soon as possible and the deployment of troops to arrest perpetrators can also be guided by the UAV at the same .





The use of UAV in fighting illegal logging is indeed very beneficial in many ways. This will certainly be a serious consideration for the air force to use this unmanned technology. However, in some cases UAV usage still has limitations to optimize its role. Among the limitations is that UAV has limited Radius of Action (ROA).      As a remote system, UAV always controlled by the Ground Control Station (GCS) all the flight. There are two type of UAV from the control system; Line Of Sight (LOS) which is the UAV should always seen by the GCS’s antenna in order to keep the two way communication between UAV and GCS, and Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS) where the communication betwen UAV and GCS are controlled by satellite. For many countries who don’t have satellite facility, the used of UAV can only made by LOS system. Means that the maximum distance between UAV and GCS is not more than 300 km. This distance is based on the contour of the earth, the cruising altittude of UAV (25.000 feet), and the strength of the frequency. However, by the development of technology of UAV, I believe that this limitation will always been upgraded in order to shift the manned aircraft to be unmanned aircraft technology in some use.





The proliferation of illegal logging in recent years has severely disrupted environmental stability in various countries such as America, Brazil, several Asian countries including Malaysia and Indonesia and countries in Africa. In addition, this activity also harms state revenues because these illegal activities do not comply with applicable regulations regarding the trade in timber that has been regulated by each country. Various ways have been done against illegal logging, one of which is to deploy existing defense components such as the Air Force with the ability to observe and surveillance using aircraft.

Along with the development of the latest aircraft technology, especially unmanned aircraft, the use of aircraft for surveillance of illegal activities began to shift from conventional aircraft to unmanned aircraft. This happens because of several things that are the advantages of using UAV, including long endurance, easy maintenance, low operating costs, and real time imagery that can be seen directly during flight and can even be forwarded to the ranks of authorized parties and agencies who are competent in fighting illegal logging activities. Aside from some of the advantages already mentioned, the use of UAV also has disadvantages, especially for countries that do not have satellite technology and have used UAV, namely radius of action limitations. This is due to the contour of the earth and the limited roaming height of the uav which is operationalized. Almost all uavs without satellite communication can only reach 300km. This is certainly a separate limitation for countries that use uav without satellite technology.

However, the use of UAV will continue to increase along with technological developments, and in some countries this has proven to be quite effective in fighting illegal logging which if not immediately anticipated will result in the depletion of forests on this earth.





  1. Lecture of Air Force Equipment, AFCC, Sept 2018


  1. Indonesia-UK Tropical Forestry Management Programme (1999) Illegal Logging in Indonesia. ITFMP Report No. EC/99/03


  1. Greenpeace (2003) Partners in Crime: A Greenpeace investigation of the links between the UK and Indonesia’s timber barons.


Moratorium of Indonesian forest, Mongaba.co.id


[1] Indonesia-UK Tropical Forestry Management Programme (1999) Illegal Logging in Indonesia. ITFMP Report No. EC/99/03

[2] Greenpeace (2003) Partners in Crime: A Greenpeace investigation of the links between the UK and Indonesia’s timber barons.

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