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China-made civilian drones fly high

Updated: Jun 25,2018 8:00 PM     Xinhua

SHENZHEN — Chinese-made drones, some of which demonstrate state-of-the-art technology, have caught the eyes of spectators at the 2nd Drone World Congress 2018 in Shenzhen, a hub of the global drone industry.

More than 100 Chinese drone companies attended the event held from June 22 to 24.

“I feel that Chinese drones are beginning to top the world’s list in terms of production and design,” said Peng Bin, the founder and CEO of XAIRCRAFT, a Chinese drone company.

The company, founded in 2007, brought its latest product for agriculture to the show. The P30 model won a Red Dot Design Award in Germany in March, one of the most influential industrial awards for design and innovation.

The fully automatic drone, able to work at night, can spray pesticides intelligently. It is more water-resistant than its counterparts and can effectively avoid being corroded by chemicals.

“I’m proud that our drones have passed the jury’s high standards,” Peng said.

China’s civilian drone industry has been growing fast, with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) being widely applied in areas such as aerial filming, geographical mapping, agriculture, environmental protection, fire fighting, logistics, public security and emergency rescue.

Other eye-catching exhibits included a fire fighting drone made by Harwar International Aviation Technology (Shenzhen) Co Ltd that is able to operate in temperatures ranging from minus 40 degrees Celsius to 125 degrees Celsius and can resist winds with a speed of up to 17 meters per second.

The JDY-800 logistics drone developed by JD.com, China’s e-commerce giant, has a maximum takeoff weight of 840 kg and a range of up to 1,000 km. It is expected to be put into operation in 2020 as a key part of its “air-to-ground” smart logistics network.

“China’s civilian drone industry is developing very quickly. Some Chinese drone companies have become the vane of the global market,” said Yang Jincai, chairman of the Shenzhen Drone Industry Association.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the country produced 2.9 million civilian drones in 2017, up 67 percent year-on-year.

Data from the Shenzhen Drone Industry Association shows that China has more than 1,200 companies engaged in development and production of UAVs and their components.

Last year, the output of Shenzhen’s drone industry valued 30 billion yuan ($4.6 billion) and the output of its consumer drones accounted for 70 percent of the global market, according to the data.

DJI, a drone heavyweight based in Shenzhen, recorded sales of over 16 billion yuan last year, with 80 percent of its products exported.

Vladimir Akhundov, a board member of American company UAVOS, which just launched a solar-powered drone, said he is very optimistic about the growth of China’s drone industry, and he is looking for a Chinese partner to jointly bring solar-powered drones to the world market.

However, China’s civilian drone industry still faces challenges in terms of technology and management, Yang said, adding that China still needs innovation to maintain its dominant status in the world market.

Qu Weizhi, executive vice-president of the China Information Technology Industry Federation, said intelligent drones will be an important trend for the drone industry.

With the growing market size and intensified competition, Chinese drone companies should keep up with the trend, and make more efforts in R&D to improve drone chips, power, flight control and navigation systems.

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