Can China Maintain its Superiority in Drone Business?
As the Chinese state advocates rapid development of smart technologies backed by a series of national policies, various industries are looking for ways to incorporative innovative techs into their businesses. The most attention-drawing example, recently, would certainly be Ele.me: the famous takeaway platform announces the use of drones in delivering food to their customers. In fact, commercial use of drone in China has a developmental advantage compared to the rest of the world, with an array of brands having gained reputation not only within the country but received positive reviews in foreign markets as well. However, the industry still has to improve its regulatory system and focuse on developing technology infrastructure if it strives to maintain its leading position.
Large commercial potential lies in the field of drones. According to PwC’s estimates, the latent market value of drone usage, widely applicable to the fields of infrastructure, transportation, agriculture and security, counts to 127.3 billion US dollars.
Among these rising firms, the sole leader of the industry would well be Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), with a 75% market share in the world, and a 50% share within the US market. Other Chinese tech firms have also started their research into drones: Xiaomi and Meitu respectively roll out their self-developed drones, while the former is regarded within the industry as advantageous and competitive.
Benefited from national policies, Chinese drones are now widely applied in various businesses, and used more advanced than other countries. For example, Ele.me announces this week that delivery for the Shanghai region will be done by drones, while American tech giants like Amazon and Alphabet (mother company of Google) have long tested their drones but yet put them on the market. Furthermore, mainland firms have been experimenting the combination of drone and other innovative technologies, such as doing live broadcast with VR specifications on a drone, bringing extremely realistic flying experience to the user.
While research, development, and manufacture of these aerial vehicles in China is still on a leading role, other countries have been working hard to keep pace, in particular in terms of legislation. At the beginning of the month, US Federal Aviation Administration eases respective regulations, lifting the ban for enterprises to conduct drone tests and allowing them such various activities as night flight, flying across crowds and package delivery. Regulatory bodies of the UK have drafted relevant laws and set up guidelines as to how drones shall be utilized in commerce and public services, in order to erase general doubt on privacy and safety issues.
On the other hand, China is relatively backwards when it comes to law. Since there is no clear indication as to which governmental department is responsible for the supervision of drones, things have gone slightly chaotic in the country, with for example numerous incidents of drones flying into restricted zones within airports, posing significant threats to aviation safety. Currently, the government requires private owners of drones weighing over 250g to register their device with real names. The system, however, is criticized for containing bugs, since it conducts no process of authentication of any contents filled. To make things worse, numerous products that weigh less than 250g are available in the market, further lessening the effectiveness of the registration mechanism.
Without a well-considered regulation, one accident can already hinder the development of the whole drone industry. Such regulation is also inefficacious if the public would easily fall into a legal trap or the police can only enforce the law after any accident occurs. In order for China to maintain the leading position in the drone industry and competitiveness against other countries, it has to simultaneously strengthen related regulations as well as enhance fundamental technologies.
Image source: DJI promotional video