Military drones to be used for civilian purpose in China

Beijing: Chinese defence contractors are racing to convert their military drones for civilian purpose and to grab a share of the lucrative market, a media report said on Tuesday.

Zhang Feng, secretary-general of the Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association of China, said the country will need more than 10,000 civilian drones once regulations are in place, the People’s Daily reported.

“The market value of developing, manufacturing, operating and maintaining these drones will reach 50 billion yuan (around $8 billion) a year,” Zhang said.

“About 20,000 drones are in use for civilian purposes on the Chinese mainland. Businesses involved in agricultural pest control, environmental monitoring, geographic surveys, forest patrols, resource exploration and maritime operations have benefited greatly from their use.”

However, transforming lethal military drones for civilian use is not simply a matter of replacing weapons with non-military equipment,” Ma Hongzhong, director of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp’s Unmanned Aircraft Research Institute, said.

“It must reduce the production and operational costs to a level that clients can afford,” Ma said.

Aviation Industry Corp is the nation’s largest aircraft manufacturer and its products account for the bulk of the People’s Liberation Army’s drone force.

“Our focus in the unmanned aircraft sector will still be on military products, but we have interfaces for civilian equipment on some military drones,” Yang said.