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BUSINESS & TECH

China’s Ambitions for Drone Industry Flying High

By Wang Qionghui and Denise Jia
China plans to promote the application of drones in such areas as agriculture and emergency response. Above: A drone sprays pesticide on crops. Photo: Visual China
China plans to promote the application of drones in such areas as agriculture and emergency response. Above: A drone sprays pesticide on crops. Photo: Visual China

China wants its drone industry to take off to $27 billion in total output by 2025, as part of the “Made in China 2025” campaign to add more high-tech spice to country’s domestic manufacturing sector.

In a guideline issued Friday, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) pledged support and regulations that bolster the country’s drone industry.

China is already the world’s largest manufacturer of consumer drones. In 2016, 350 manufacturers produced 2.23 million units for civil use, with a total value of 15 billion yuan. More than 70% of the products were exported, official data show.

The MIIT said it wants a group of leading companies to work on drone applications, including two to five top players with core technology and global influence. The industry ministry said it would promote the applications of drones in areas such as agriculture, logistics, geographic mapping and emergency response.

Shenzhen-based DJI Technology Co. Ltd. is already the world’s top seller of consumer drones, with a global market share of 70%.

China’s drone industry is expected to grow annually by 40% by 2020 and 25% after that, the MIIT said in the guideline.

The ministry said it plans to establish and revise more than 200 rules covering the research, production, application and safety regulation of civilian drones.

China would also encourage the military to perform more drone testing, support colleges to set up drone-related majors and establish a national association of drone manufacturers.

Chinese regulators have been taking steps to better regulate the growing number of drones in its busy airspace. In June, the civil aviation regulator started to enforce real-name registration for civilian drones that weigh over 250 grams (8.8 ounces).

The move came amid growing safety concerns. As of July 18, 790 airplane flights had been either delayed or diverted because of rogue drones, according to the Civil Aviation Administration. The impact of a drone on a jetliner has been likened to that of a cannonball strike.

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