China invests heavily in drone industry

Drones can be used in multiple ways, for both civilian and military purposes. The latter is demonstrated day after day by Russia’s war against Ukraine. China has now announced its intention to provide the equivalent of USD 70 billion for the development of a ‘low altitude economy’. A gigantic chunk of money.

China is building various models of smaller drones such as the FimiX8 Mini to scan landscapes – courtesy China-Gadgets…

The volume of the market segment of low-altitude aerial vehicles [operating below 1,000 meters], grew by almost 34% last year, reaching a financial volume of USD 70 billion. Market experts forecast it will more than double by 2026. This estimate is based on an analysis from a research institute linked to Beijing’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), and published last week.

Sun Wensheng, Deputy Director of the Department of General Affairs at the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), stated that the regulator intends to “continuously improve support services for low-altitude flight activities, including plan approval, air traffic management, meteorological services, communication and surveillance.”

Powerful driving force
The project is outlined in a nine-page guideline for the general aviation industry presented by the MIIT in cooperation with other agencies. The scheme reveals government intentions to provide considerable start-up assistance to pave the way to launching commercial applications in sectors such as urban air transport, drone food deliveries, emergency rescue, and logistics supplies, in general. “By 2030, a new development model for general aviation, characterized by high-end, intelligent and green features, will be established,” the guideline announces. It goes on to say: “General aviation equipment will be fully integrated into production and life, becoming a powerful driving force for economic growth.”

Bright future of drone applications
“In China, civilian drones have pioneered industry-wide adoption in sectors such as agriculture, fishery, forestry, animal husbandry, and aerial photography,” stated Luo Hongjiang, from the civil aviation regulator during a briefing last week. He went on to say: “Logistics services of drones have expanded into urban commercial areas and communities. The airworthiness certification process for eVTOL aircraft is steadily advancing, and the future prospects of drone applications are bright.”

but also large combat drones, like the WZ-7 “Soaring Dragon” –  courtesy: Future Zone

Dual-use considerations
The USD 70 billion project runs under the collective term ‘General Aviation’. Possibly a deliberate name that sounds harmless in order to emphasize the civilian nature of the scheme to the outside world, to avoid raising and spreading mistrust. In a country that keeps its true plans under wraps, it fits that military considerations are not mentioned anywhere. However, experts suspect that the entire plan is of dual-use character, i.e. the high investments in drones also serve to build up a powerful drone infrastructure for the Chinese military, which is under the command of China’s Central Military Commission. Just this March, a large Chinese drone was discovered in the airspace of Taiwan – a country that China regards as part of its own territory and wants to annex – by force if necessary.

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