New drone center gives glimpse of the shape of things to come

Sep 3, 2018

A drone gives visitors at the East China Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Center a taste of the food deliveries of the future at Jinshan Industrial Park yesterday. The suburban district has approved 17 drone routes for food deliveries in the park.

A waiter loads freshly prepared food onto a drone which then flies along a fixed route to its assigned destination.

A deliveryman at the other end collects the food as it lands and carries it the final few meters to the hungry customer.

Each drone can carry 5 kilograms and make deliveries to diners up to 3.5 kilometers from the kitchen, flying at a height of about 70 meters. The food takes an average of 20 minutes to arrive, compared with 30 minutes by e-bike.

This is not some futurologists dream, is happening right now in Jinshan Industrial Park, where a center for unmanned aerial vehicle research opened yesterday. The park has authorised 17 routes for food delivery drones.

The new center has the right to fly drones in 58 square kilometers of airspace and has two 800-meter runways for fixed wing UAVs.

It will be involved in every kind of drone activity from research through exhibitions and commerce, to training and education. It is seen as a bridgehead for development of the drone industry in the region.

Drones have found their way into almost every corner of industry and many aspects of people's everyday lives. They are widely used in filmmaking, disaster relief, police work, logistics, military operations and entertainment.

The State Council, China's Cabinet, is broadly supportive of the drone industry, specifically the integration of artificial intelligence with UAVs.

"All drones flying here will be under strict supervision," said Chen Guangwen, a senior official at the center.

The center closely monitors all flights including the altitude, route and speed of each drone along with the owner's and pilot's information.

Major areas for research and development will be logistics, aerial filming, police missions and fire prevention.

Drone manufacturers will be invited to set up in the center and conduct test flights there.

A nearby industrial park covering 200,000 square meters is a logical place to establish assembly and production bases with a 5,000-square-meter drone hangar.

Dajiang Innovation, a Shenzhen-based drone manufacturer, yesterday signed an agreement with Jinshan to establish a research base within the center.

According to the center's blueprint, another 200 square kilometers of airspace will be available in the second phase of development, including airspace over the sea.