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Will China dominate UAV technology?

Chinese consumer drone companies have been pace-setters in recent years, taking up more than 70% of the global market share. Chinese military UAVs are also making significant progress. Swarm intelligence is the key to military artificial intelligence. In a recent flight experiment, the quantity of swarm fixed-wing UAVs reached 67, while the record was kept by US Navy at 50. This marks a significant breakthrough in China. It also means China has entered the first tier of UAV technology.

China has developed leading UAV technology, which is more advanced than that of the US in a few fields. However, if China is to retain its juicy market share in consumer drones, the transition from functional drones to intelligent drones is necessary.

The portable drone Mavic is designed and produced by Chinese drone company DJI. When folded, it is the size of a water bottle. While the flight time of Mavic reached 27 minutes. GoPro released its Karma drone around the same time, which soon was recalled due to quality issues. Without intelligent features like obstacle sensing and automatic tracking, it is hardly a smart drone. Yang Jincai, President of Shenzhen UAV Industry Association said: “Every day there is a new drone here in Shenzhen, the capital of drones.”

Shenzhen produces 70% of consumer drones in the world. A giant like DJI and ZeroTech, or UAV start-ups, all rely on the mature electronic industry chain and the government’s “Made in China 2025” strategy. The strategy is also beneficial to military drones. CH-5, China’s military UAV, has a longer flight time and bigger bomb load than US Predator UAV.

Just in the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, there are five crucial UAV lines including Long, Ying, Yiing, Bing, and unmanned helicopters. At the 2016 Zhuhai Airshow, this company displayed their latest MagLev aircraft, which took an appearance of UFO in Sci-fi movies.

President Yang JIncai commented: “The manufacture of hardware and other industries are faced with the fourth industrial revolution.” Chinese corporations should make the best of their advantages in software engineering and the manufacture of intelligent hardware.

UAVs are the phosphor of “Made in China 2025”, requiring the integration of more technologies including AI, VR, and AR. Multiple cooperation is also needed to further the industry development.