Chengdu emerges as drone hub in western China

By Huang Zhiling and Peng Chao | | Updated: 2024-03-12 15:59
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A drone developed by Chengdu-based JOUAV makes its test flight. [Photo provided to China Daily]

As China gradually opens up its low-altitude airspace for civilian use, Chengdu in Southwest China's Sichuan province is leveraging its advantages in the industrial drone sector to build itself into a low-altitude economic hub in western China.

Statistics from the city's economic and information technology bureau show that the city is home to more than 100 enterprises in the industrial drone sector, forming a complete industry chain covering raw materials, base components and systems, manufacturing and operation services.

In recent years, the output value of Chengdu's industrial drone sector has maintained an average annual growth rate of more than 20 percent. Its comprehensive industrial competitiveness ranks among the top three in the country, according to the bureau.

Aerofugia, a Chengdu-based low-altitude transport manufacturer, completed the maiden flight of its AE200 electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) for airworthiness verification at the end of last year.

According to the company, at 4.6 meters tall, 9 meters long, and with a wingspan of 14.5 meters, the AE200 can accommodate one driver and four passengers and has a maximum range of 200 to 300 kilometers.

Fei Lan, marketing director of Aerofugia, said eVTOLs have a wide market prospect and can be used in various fields such as low-altitude transport, aerial sightseeing, business shuttling and emergency rescue.

The company signed an agreement with Sino Jet, one of the largest business jet operators in the Asia-Pacific region, to purchase 100 AE200 aircraft in July 2023. After the AE200's airworthiness certification is completed, executive air travel service using the aircraft is expected to debut in Chengdu, Fei said.

A JOUAV employee checks one of the company's unmanned aerial vehicles. [Photo provided to China Daily]

JOUAV, a leading industrial UAV manufacturer, completed construction of its new manufacturing base in Chengdu last year. The base has an annual capacity of about 3,700 units of standard models and enables efficient and cost-effective production of various types and large quantities of UAVs, the company said.

Ren Bin, founder and CEO of JOUAV, believes that Shenzhen in Guangdong province is the hub of the consumer drone sector, while Chengdu is the hub of the industrial drone sector.

"Chengdu has a solid foundation in the aviation industry, and its openness and inclusiveness make it suitable for developing the industrial drone sector," he said.

A drone developed by a company in Chengdu makes its test flight. [Photo provided to China Daily]

In October 2023, Chengdu's economic and information technology bureau and finance bureau issued 10 policies to facilitate the high-quality development of its industrial drone sector.

According to the policies, enterprises and institutions that develop new drone models and achieve sales, as well as those that establish flight test bases and provide flight test services to drone manufacturers, can receive a maximum reward of 3 million yuan ($417,000).

Local officials said Chengdu aims to become a domestic leader in the industrial drone sector, with the output value of its entire industrial drone industry chain exceeding 10 billion yuan by 2025.

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