In the early 2000s, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were used primarily by the military. The US Predator Drone, used in Afghanistan in the search for Osama bin Laden, is what most people might think of when discussing drones. But in the 2010s, ever-innovating technology transformed drones into entertaining consumer-grade and photographic tools that continue to evolve into working tools for agriculture, construction mapping, filmmaking, rescue, transportation, and other professionals.
Commercially and technologically, China makes most of the world’s non-military drones, with the majority being made by one company: DJI. It’s already a booming industry, with about 70,000 companies also producing drones, accessories and software.
With its HQ in Shenzhen DJI has 70% of the global consumer drone market alone. But a growing market will undoubtedly lead to more players entering. According to the Shenzhen Drone Industry Association, 2.9 million consumer drones were produced in China in 2017, up 67 percent year over year. the Chinese drone industry is worth $67 billion in 2020, up 16 percent from 2019.
So who are the players in the Chinese drone market? Here is a collection of information from SubChina on Chinese drone companies. They include companies involved in drone R&D, drone manufacturing, military use, drone services and accessories. They are divided by application into the following categories: military, entertainment, agriculture, public safety, disaster mitigation, fire and emergency response, aquaculture, photography, infrastructure management, forestry, environmental protection, smart city management, logistics, passenger transportation, terrain analysis, and drone accessories.
China is at the center of the drone boom. Here are the businesses that are significant participants in the 21st century drone industry.
Applications: Photography, agriculture, forestry, public safety
DJI is the flagship drone manufacturer in China. A 15-year-old company with corporate headquarters in Shenzhen, DJI produces remotely piloted quadcopters and commercial drones for aerial photography, agriculture, forestry and security. DJI’s $15 billion market cap company controls 80 percent of the global commercial drone business and sells approximately $1 billion worth of drones to the United States each year.
According to a 2017 report by The Verge, DJI drones are “the most compact drones to date. DJI also serves more than 900 local and state law enforcement and emergency services agencies in the U.S. In December 2020, DJI was placed on a list of government entities that prohibits U.S. companies to export technology to DJI, though U.S. consumers can still purchase DJI.
Later in June, a Pentagon audit found “no malicious code or intent” in two DJI drone models that the government uses frequently.
In April 2021, DJI showed off its smart driving system at the Shanghai Auto Show and revealed a separate division, DJI Automotive, that will focus on electric vehicles.
Product Highlights: Professional and consumer grade drones, light show services
Founded in 2014, High Great is one of the “three giants” of drone entertainment in China, together with EHang and Shenzhen Damodar Intelligent Control. Since 2017, High Great has been frequently responsible for some of the most impressive drone shows in China and around the world. Last June, High Great showcased a light show of 2,100 drones to celebrate the National Day of the People’s Republic of China. High Great has been hired by luxury car brands, universities, technology giants and national television stations.
Most recently, High Great is partnering with China Central Television (CCTV) for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China on July 1, 2021. Using more than 3,000 drones, they showcased key events in the history of the Party, including the Long March route and the outline of the Communist Party’s first national congress.
High Great highlights its headquarters in Shenzhen as a critical part of its success. The site writes that the city “not only gives us easy access to drone suppliers and raw materials, but also brings us closer to the creative talent base.”
Shenzhen DAMODA Intelligent Control Technology
Product Highlights: Professional and consumer drones, light show services
Founded in 2016, it is one of the top three drone light show companies in China. The company focuses on providing light shows for celebrations, theme parks, advertising and marketing. Previously, DAMODA stood out at the Chinese New Year Festival Celebration. It has also appeared frequently in various theme parks, from Guangdong Chimelong Paradise to Beijing Gubei Water Town. The company claims that it has completed nearly 3,000 shows in various scenes so far without any bugs. It has also partnered with BYD, Huawei to provide aerial advertising.
In the light show held in Guangdong in September 2020, the GAMODA broke the Guinness record with the number of 3,051 drones. The drone show in the Chinese pavilion at the Dubai World Expo in the same year won unanimous praise from the audience of various countries.
Applications: Logistics, passenger transportation, intelligent city management, entertainment
Product Highlights: Professional and consumer drones, light show services
EHang is a publicly traded transportation drone company with headquarters in Guangzhou, China, mainly manufacturing eVTOL. In addition to its signature “robot taxi” or “air taxi” business, the company also offers drones for aerial photography and light shows.
Since its initial public offering in December 2019, EHang has consolidated its position in the industry with a series of autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV). Its first autonomous passenger aircraft, the EH216, successfully carried 36 passengers through the Guangdong test area in January 2021. Other major participants entering the air taxicab business include Airbus SE and Boeing Co., carmakers Hyundai, General Motors, and Stellantis NV, and technology companies Intel and Tencent.
Applications: Aerial survey, public safety, firefighting, logistics
Product Highlights: EVTOL
Founded in 2017, AutoFlight is a leading manufacturer in the UAV industry focused on eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing). The founder has been in the aviation industry for more than 20 years and has obtained more than 300 flight-related patents. The company’s chief technology officer spun off their own drone software company to provide AI technology specifically for eVTOL, they are “Great White Shark” model, built with carbon fiber and pure electric power, and can carry a 20 kg load at 5,000 meters and travel up to 600 kilometers.
Applications: Public safety, disaster relief, environmental protection, infrastructure management, military
Product Highlights: LTE network, 4G/5G cloud image transmission, portable facial/plate recognition, COFDM image transmission, frequency-based UAV network
Founded in 2006, is a UAV company specializing in wireless communication and UAV video transmission. The company’s 4G private network and UAV HD video transmission have been used in air defense, public security, military, customs security (anti-smuggling), urban management, forest fire prevention, environmental protection, security and emergency services. The company claims to be “widely used in public security systems in many provinces” with customers in Southeast Asia.
China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics
Product Highlights: Caihong-4 and Caihong-5 (combat drones)
Formerly known as the Beijing Institute of Aerodynamics (BIA) or the 701st Research Institute of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, it is a research and manufacturing center for missiles and rockets.
Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC)
Product Highlights: Wing Loong I and II (combat drones)
Founded in 2008, AVIC is the state-owned defense contractor and fighter jet supplier to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). It is a conglomerate with more than 100 subsidiaries, including 24 publicly traded companies specializing in the manufacture of fighter, attack, transport and reconnaissance aircraft.
Applications: Aquaculture, photography
Product Highlights: Poseidon I (underwater drone)
Underwater drone manufacturers offer drones that can perform difficult tasks, including taking 4k resolution images deep underwater and in locations that are difficult or impossible for humans to reach. 9. Geneinno is popular in China with diving, fishing and yachting enthusiasts who use their products primarily for photography, industrial use by aquaculture companies, and marine biology education.
Its flagship drone is the Poseidon I, which earned the company millions of dollars in sales in 2017. The Poseidon I can sink to a depth of 120 meters and has a maximum battery life of five hours.
Geneinno currently has a partnership with DJI’s North American distributor and is looking to expand its business in North America, Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia.
Partners: Xiaomi, Energous, Swissloop, High Great, Digi-Key, Arrow
Applications: Drone accessories
Product Highlights: Customizable drone batteries
Founded in 1998, Grepow Battery is one of the largest battery manufacturers in China and a leading designer of advanced rechargeable batteries. Its Tattu and Gens ace brands are known worldwide in the field of industry drones and model drones. It has four factories and 3,000 employees, 200 of whom are engaged in R&D. It is constantly introducing new battery series such as smart batteries, high voltage batteries, etc.
Custom projects include complete power solutions for cells, battery management systems ( BMS ), and chargers.
For more companies, please see the next article:
Top 22 companies in China’s UAV Drone industry – Part 2