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Shenzhen, China – The Silicon Valley of Drones

Anyone who is calling themselves the Silicon Valley of Drones outside of Guangdong, China is either delusional, a wishful thinker, a huckster, or has no internet access. You may also be possibly suffering from the same afflictions if you believe or espouse the notion that there is no money in hardware. I am here to tell you friends: there is a boatload of Yuan in it. The Chinese Bay Area has a GDP of 1.3 trillion USD while the U.S. Bay Area has a GDP of 0.8 trillion USD. Sure you have a higher per capita income and other variables, but the bottom line is the bottom line, and these folks are laser-focused on making the Maojamins.

The world UAV Congress takeaway –

Say it loud: we are number one in drones, and we’re proud! Yes, there are tons of different manufacturers and offerings covering most of the same applications we do or want to do here in the U.S., Europe, and the rest of the world. Fire drones, delivery drones, FARM DRONES, science drones, mapping drones, and configurations for everything in-between!

Most of the applications are straightforward except for the Ag realm. So, we have academics that came to the US in the late 2000’s to learn about remote sensing from the USDA and our universities.  Share the wealth! We all want to help feed a hungry planet and be better stewards of our environment and ecosystems. Here’s the rub (hide chapter alert); so now we have US government officials travelling to China to learn all about their success with the FARM DRONES.   

In a nutshell, we here in the US are reaping all of the financial and technical rewards of the FAA’s telling everyone in the US to take a decade off from commercial drones. Not that there weren’t plenty of folks in the US of A that wanted to compete in the global market. However, ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) put the kibosh on that too, and it shows in China. ITAR non-compliers are eligible for all-inclusive, expenses-paid, extended vacation at the luxurious USP Leavenworth. The ITAR wicket is a sticky one as it can be enacted retroactively. Violators are encouraged under duress to reclaim previously sold and classified as uncontrolled items. You don’t need a law degree from ASU (Harvard on the Gila) to figure out that it is a bad place to be.

More than just having one drone for every application, they have developed domestic drone applications. Maybe that is a byproduct of actual real-world type testing and prototyping over the tradeshow floor stuff? I am only speculating, as I didn’t get out into the country or get to do a factory tour.  However, I will give you an ag drone (aka FARM DRONE!) company there by the name of XAircraft. They have an application drone that flies about the applications drone, and the whole farm is monitored by self-contained (and WiFi enabled), in-the-ground sensor array. They also train their pilots to maintain as well as fly the aircraft and also teach them about the subjects (crops) they are working. There’s a novel concept: an actual learned knowledge base for the DaaS big data you are trying to collect. So, the crop is being monitored all the time for anomalies by almost everyone as well as every machine on the farm. The XAG cellphone App control allows you to adjust the flow and droplet size of the applicant—way better than the 60’s era stuff on most farm drones.  There is also Geofencing and facial recognition built into the cellphone app to safeguard against any unauthorized use.

Other drone companies aren’t as advanced with their facial recognition software yet I guess (wink, wink, nod, nod). While on the facial recognition subject, this InTelliData company says their software works with any camera system, including those on drones. Shenzhen is also the Silicon Valley of facial recognition software with massive government investment; it appears they want to be number one in this technology too.

A side story is the social ranking system employed with its use. Those citizens displaying anti-social behaviour lose ranking and eventually cannot use public transportation. While on that subject, I will say the subway system is excellent. I had trepidation that it would be a complex puzzle, but that was not the case. Clean, well-lit, safe, map emulating the London tube with an English version and did not smell like urine. One of the locals quipped that the previous mayor was fired for subway system graft. I guess he commissioned five lines simultaneously and was getting kickbacks. I say if you are going to have graft the getting-stuff-done kind is what you want.

Some of the other notable mentions were by-products of what I would call glimpses through the US drone hype screen and a sprinkling of some European common sense. The only thing missing is the idea of building an aviation culture of safety. The Chinese still have plenty of time to do this, because their whole aviation system is blossoming together. They also know that they are leaders in this technology and are cautious when it comes to making any regulatory mistakes that could cost them that well-earned lead.  

Some of the other byproducts besides the holistic application approach is education and safety for pilots. We know the government has a way of OEM buy-in for safety violations of their customers that include fining the manufacturer. They have their own AOPA that provides licensing and education for drone pilots and have a little better handle on who is using the technology for what purposes. Other countries are actually collecting data and utilizing national test centers, not just talking about it. STEM education, as I had mentioned in other articles, is something they are investing heavily in. We are comparatively giving STEM lip service with education grants and scholarships in the thousands, and they are talking about programs in the billions that not only educate but will also yield tens of thousands of jobs.   


They do need help in the advertising and marketing department. I’ve noticed that they appear to be a little of a “I know a guy” marketing economy. Someone you know knows a guy who can sell you (and get a deal) on whatever you need. I’ve tried to explain that we in the US are not as tightly knit when it comes to consumerism. In any event, most contend that they have difficulty competing in both manufacture as well as meeting the price points of DJI.

It never ceases to amaze me that, wherever I go, folks come up to me and tell me how much they enjoy and rely on the sUAS News for quality content and commentary.  So I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of our readers in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, to name a few.  As stated we would be happy to receive story contributions to stay apprised of what is going on in the region.

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