Economic Watch: China’s drone industry has potential after high-altitude test

SHENZHEN (Xinhua), June 6 – Chinese drone manufacturer DJI conducted the world’s very first drone delivery test on Mount Qomolangma, on the Nepali side. The tests demonstrated the potential for China’s drone sector to facilitate high-altitude climbing, emergency rescue and environmental protection.

The ability to transport supplies, equipment and waste safely by drone could revolutionize Mount Qomolangma mountaineering logistic, improve trash cleaning efforts and increase safety for everyone involved, said Christina Zhang. DJI is headquartered in Shenzhen, in the south China’s Guangdong Province.

In the April tests, the DJI FlyCart 30 was used to transport three bottles of oxygen and 1.5 kg worth of other supplies to Camp 1 of the highest peak in the world (around 6,000 meters), and to bring down the garbage on the return journey.

The DJI FlyCart 30 was able to fly up to 6,191.8 metres on Mount Qomolangma, located on the border between China and Nepal. The DJI FlyCart 30 was able carry a payload of 15 kg at an altitude 6,000 meters.

The team from DJI set out to solve a transportation bottleneck between Base Camp and Camp 1, separated by Khumbu Icefall – one of the most hazardous parts of the southern slope climb.

Unmodified drones can transport 15 kg round-trip between two camps, in just 12 minutes. This is true for day and night. Although helicopters could theoretically do the same trip, they are not used because of the danger and cost involved.

DJI said that its delivery drones are designed to reduce the workload of local Sherpa guide who risk their lives every time they navigate the treacherous Khumbu Icefall.

Sherpa guides have traditionally been responsible for the transportation of supplies and the removal of trash from Mount Qomolangma. They may cross over 30 times during a season in order to transport oxygen bottles, canisters of gas, tents and food.

The environmental issue is also becoming more important in recent years. As more climbers generate waste and garbage, it becomes more of a concern.

Zhang stated that DJI hopes to use its drones for commercial mountaineering. They also hope to reduce accidents and the environmental damage caused through mountaineering by implementing garbage removal programs.

A Nepali drone operator began offering drone delivery services to Mount Qomolangma on May 22, following the successful tests.

DJI drones are being used in China to transport supplies on commercial climbing routes such as Mount Gongga.

China’s drone delivery has surpassed the limits of Mount Qomolangma and accumulated valuable data, experience, and knowledge for the development of China’s unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV), said Jin Wei. He is the deputy secretary-general of China UAV Industry Innovation Alliance.

Jin explained that due to limitations in communication and power, the only aircraft capable of flying above certain altitudes are turbine-powered aircraft or helicopters. These have high maintenance and purchase costs, and have limited operational capabilities.

Jin stated that he believes more UAVs would be used to accomplish work in harsh environments, such as high-altitude regions and cold climates, deserts and the oceans. This will help us make breakthroughs and achieve more in different scenarios.

“Drones could replace helicopters to transport supplies on the plateau in a low-risk manner, greatly expanding the UAV’s application space,” said Cai Yun, an engineer from East China Normal University.

The success of high-altitude transportation tests will stimulate the rapid development of civil drone industries upstream and downstream, and expand the market demand and application scenarios of the low altitude economy. This will help China gain an early competitive advantage in the low-altitude sector, said Zhu Hang of Jilin University’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

China’s UAV sector has grown at an average of more than 20% per year in the last few years. It is now a major driver for China’s economy, which is the second largest in terms of size.

Jin stated that in recent years more electric drones were used for agriculture, forestry, powerline inspection, logistics and emergency rescue. Each major breakthrough would help to save resources, protect life and property and ensure the safety of people and materials.

Qi Juntong is the chairman of drone maker EFY Intelligent Control Technology Co. Ltd.

Related Articles