China's booming IT industry helps drones fly high
Updated: 2016-03-14 07:14
By Wang Wen(China Daily)
A technician demonstrates to some farmers in Huaibei, Anhui province how to use a drone in farm production.
Ehang Inc, a Chinese drone maker, created a flutter at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January with its latest product, the world's first drone capable of carrying a human passenger.
The world sat up and took notice that manufacture of unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs－drones in common parlance－is now the forte of Chinese companies, never mind China Inc lags in aircraft-making capability.
Shenzhen, Guangdong-based DJI-Innovations Technology Co leads with a 70 percent share of the world's consumer drone market. It also commands a 47 percent share of the US market. "Our leading position is on account of the high level of our technologies," said Wang Fan, the company's vice-president.
Its 2015 net profit was $250 million. The company estimates it will rise by 86 percent to $460 million this year.
Its confidence stems from the fact that the company has the world's best flight control system in the drone industry. Wang said the system is analogous to the brain. It makes the drone flight stable and safe. "We developed the flight control system all by ourselves."
Real-time picture communication system is also key for civilian drones, Wang said.
DJI-Innovation's light bridge system can transmit high-definition images to a distance of up to 5 kilometers, much advanced than other manufacturers, he said.
The camera stabilizer is also important for consumer drones as the drones usually reach up to 400 to 500 meters in altitude and could face strong winds.
"The camera stabilizer is an attractive technology for the public as it reduces the camera shaking and ensures top picture quality," said Wang.
DJI-Innovation has a tie-up with Hasselblad, the high-end optical camera manufacturer from Switzerland, to develop its own cameras customized for use in drones, Wang said.
Other Chinese drone builders are also improving their technologies and innovating to make cutting-edge products.
For instance, Guangzhou-based Ehang is testing out the Ehang 184, its passenger-carrying drone, and expects to find out more applications for it this year, said Xiong Yifang, the company's co-founder and chief marketing officer.
He said the company is also working on an emergency ejection system for the Ehang 184 to make sure the safety of the passenger does not get compromised, although it is not sure yet when the product will be sold.