Chinese consumer drone companies have been pace-setters in recent years, taking up more than 70% of 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 UAV has reached 67, while the record was kept by US Navy at 50. This marks a significant breakthrough of 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 US in a few fields. However, if China is to remain its juicy market share in consumer drones, the transition from functional drones to intelligent drones is necessary.

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: “Everyday there is a new drone here in Shenzhen, the capital of drone.”

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

Just in Aviation Industry Corporation of China, there are five crucial UAV lines including Long, Ying, Yiing, Bing and unmanned helicopter. In 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 best of their advantages in software engineering and manufacture of intelligent hardware.

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