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  • Writer's pictureJarratt Ong

Impact Takes Flight with ZhiMin Sim from Yonah (Podcast)

Updated: Oct 22, 2021


Have you ever taken a life changing trip that has altered your worldview and made you realise that you might have just what it takes to bring your talents to a field that you can help change?

Follow us on this episode where ZhiMin shared his trip to Papua New Guinea that made him learn that he has a part to play in bringing healthcare to rural areas with the help of technology, and building sustainable cities and communities.



Yonah was founded in October 2016 during a consulting trip to Papua New Guinea with Mission Aviation Fellowship. The founders witnessed firsthand the issues associated with access in remote areas. For example, cold-chain management was a huge issue and medical supplies could not be delivered due to lack of roads and travelling by foot was incredibly time consuming.

Yonah was founded to first employ autonomous drone technology to make a difference in these areas. They designed cargo drone infrastructure for some of the most remote areas on this planet. Their systems are designed to require minimal infrastructure and limited manpower, to launch and recover, service, and provide necessary maintenance in the field.

Talent like ZhiMin that tackles the social and engineering side is rare in the impact space. One amazing thing about Yonah is that it has been an amazing opportunity for undergrad engineers to tackle the hard aspects of engineering and build extremely impressive drones. We are grateful for Yonah for helping create more talents to help make an impact and helping to manifest an amazing sustainability community.

Let's have a look at the episode together and uncover how a university talent like ZhiMin has opened up doors for fellow talents to embark on a impact making journey with him as we learn from the insights that he will be sharing:

#1 The premise of Yonah

Yonah began as Zhimin realised that vaccines would take days for them to be delivered in remote areas. These were problems, he felt, that the urban areas tend to take for granted as unlike the urban areas, the remote places do not have roads for trucks to drive on. It was then which he realised he perhaps he could use existing problems to help solve these problems to create a sustainable society.

#2 More than the technical side of solutions

One of his biggest lesson was for him was to learn how to take a holistic approach instead of focusing on just the technical aspect of the solution. For example, Zhimin had to think about how will the drones be operated, how does he engage with the community in order to make sure that solutions are adopted, etc. Sustainability opportunities are everywhere if we think a little differently.

#3 The importance of aligning values with partners

Zhimin emphasises that aligning of values with partners helps in the long run. This is beneficial with the execution of solutions especially when getting multilateral stakeholders to come together and make systemic changes.


Need more? You can listen to the podcast over at Spotify and check out Yonah!

Impact In Sight is here to bring you discussions with the industry’s strong impact creating players from the region. Interseed is grown in Southeast Asia. Check out our playlist here!

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Topics discussed:

talent, mechanical engineering, engineering, software engineering, robotics and unmanned systems, military and commercial applications, drones, rotary rig systems, medical supplies, hospitals, rural areas, university life, academia, internships, early stage startup, side hustle, gig economy, design thinking, management tools, holistic solutions, community engagement, UAV for payload delivery, partnerships and alignment of values, technical trials


00:50 Introduction

01:25 How he ended up doing a degree in mechanical engineering, his journey doing so, and how his undergraduate days looked like, and his attempt at being a pilot.

3:45 His internship at HOPE Technik focusing on robotics and unmanned systems that led to his being a “full-time exam taker” as he works full time with them after the internship period.

5:30 Navigating his learning curve in technical aspects he challenged himself.

6:30 How he took a chance by emailing the CEO, Peter Ho, and landed an internship with HOPE Technik.

8:45 How he met his co-founder for Yonah on their trip to Papua New Guinea to see how frontier health systems were being run and how the logistics of moving health systems to those areas were being done.

10:43 How observing more and talking less led to him understanding nuances that led to Yonah.

11:30 What made him realised he wanted to start Yonah with his co-founder to use technology to make the inaccessible become accessible.

13:10 How his supportive parents encouraged him.

14:10 The earlier years which he was an engineer consultant, and drove for Grab while building a system from scratch.

15:35 Early challenges such as learning how to work on rotary rig systems, HR issues, limited space in Singapore to fly test drones, financing problems, etc.

16:40 Him introducing process, and management tools to encourage experimentation and learning as they go along.

18:00 The importance of not just thinking from a technical perspective but instead tackle with a holistic solution such as having a sustainable and scalable logistic hub that includes the locals.

19:00 ZhiMin sharing the value of communicating engagement to help locals understand what the drone system can do for the community.

20:20 His experience in the steering community for UAV for Payload Delivery Working Group that is a community of UAV vendors, technicians, government officials, and civil aviation regulators. How he aims to push for the democratisation of technology and commitment to open source with this committee.

22:00 His hopes for Asia to catch up to Africa thats leading the world on payload delivery for UAV and the challenges facing Southeast Asia and how it is hindering technology advancement.

25:12 How stability came about over time after a period of being in the office for 18 hours a day.

27:12 The relationship building process with partners by aligning values especially with multilaterial stakeholders.

28:50 Tips when working with new partners and clients in order to build trust.

30:00 His thoughts about scaling and increasing output as an impact business.

31:43 His open call for young trainee engineers for their undergraduate training program designed for engineering talents. The program is open to engineering undergraduates and soon for students from Singapore Polytechnic. The program will put talent through real life engineering training projects.

Organisations mentioned in order of reference:

  • HOPE Technik

  • UAV

  • has a database library, has events and webinars that are all pertaining to this whole UAV payload delivery


Where to find ZhiMin from Yonah:

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