Drone schools gain popularity in China

BEIJING -- Joysticks at their fingertips, the mostly male students packing the classroom lift their virtual helicopters into the air, part of a new cottage industry that's sprung up in China: drone pilot schools.

See Full Article

China is already the world's biggest drone manufacturer, churning out remote-controlled flying machines that range from 3-D urban mappers to tear-gas spraying models for police. But it lacks qualified pilots to fly them.

Young men in particular are flocking to drone schools such as TT Aviation Technology Co., one of more than 40 in China, hoping to land a potentially lucrative job in an exciting new field.

TT Aviation offers a two-week intensive course for 8,000 yuan (US$1,200) where students learn regulations and how to pilot using simulators and real drones. At the end of the course, they can try to earn the license required by China's Civil Aviation Administration to operate drones that are heavier than 7 kilograms and fly higher than 120 meters.

Xu Honggang, 24, believes the license will open doors to piloting jobs that make at least 5,000 Chinese yuan per month (US $780), higher than average. Some experienced pilots bring in double that amount, he said.

"I want to build my own company with drone services," Xu said one recent afternoon next to a grassy field where his instructor demonstrated basic moves with a small radio-controlled helicopter. "I like to work for myself. This is a new and popular line of work."

The opportunities appear promising. More than 10,000 new pilots are needed this year across all industries in China, but only 1,000 pilots now hold licenses, said Yang Yi, the general manager of TT Aviation, which also manufactures and sells drones to private and public sector customers.

"The drone pilot and the car driver are the same: They both need systematic skill training and regulated studying to make sure everyone knows the rules before the real operation," she said.

Drones are touted as game-changers in a range of industries, including agriculture, logistics, film production and law enforcement.

The sector has gotten support from the central government, which is keen on promoting robotics and automation to sustain economic growth as labor costs rise. Chinese firms are making inroads producing unmanned machines beyond industrial use as well. Baidu, the Beijing-based search engine, is developing a self-driving car while DJI, a Shenzhen-based drone maker valued by U.S. investors at $8 billion, has cornered more than half the world consumer drone market.

So far, more than half of TT Aviation's products are used in agriculture. China has vast farmlands, and there is a high demand for drones to be used in pesticide spraying because the labor force is shrinking even as labor costs rise, said Yang.

The company said police will use drones for patrols, while utilities use them for maintaining electricity infrastructure or mapping pipelines.

The Shandong Qihang Surveying and Mapping Technology Company has used photographs taken by its drones to build vast urban databases and 3-D models of cities. Every building can be catalogued, with information about the people and businesses behind every window stored in a database - a valuable technology for government bodies like the census bureau, urban planners and public security agencies, said company vice president Wu Haining.

"With oblique photograph technology and through cooperation with the government, people will be able to check any uploaded personal information in a room from any building in our 3-D map," said Wu, whose company also produces surveillance drones with five cameras.

The rapid development of new types of drones requires a pool of trained and specialized drone operators, Wu said.

Even as drones offer law enforcement sharply expanded capabilities, authorities in China, as in many other countries, are scrambling to regulate their use. The country is now beginning to set nationwide regulations on where they can fly, which are applauded by many in the Chinese industry.

"We need pilots with licenses, because safety is the biggest concern in the operation of drones. Although we have insurance, we still need strict regulations for studying and training to avoid any incidents," Wu said.

On a recent afternoon, a group of drone-flying aficionados tried out their models in the outskirts of Beijing near the city's 6th Ring Road, a highway around the city about 15 to 20 kilometers (8-12 miles) from the city center. The capital requires permission to fly a drone inside that ring.

"This is only a toy for entertainment, I won't use this for any other purpose," said Sun Xiaoqiang, a Beijing resident who has been flying drones for two years, when asked about the regulations.

"I have no bad intentions, it's only for entertainment, so I think they should open a certain airspace for us."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Common genetic trait links human and doggy friendliness

    Tech & Science CBC News
    We may be more like our dogs than we know. Scientists studying the genetic basis for dog friendliness have found it comes from a portion of their genome that is similar to the area in the human genome that relates to sociability. Source
  • Man says he punched grizzly bear in the nose in B.C.

    Tech & Science CTV News
    QUALICUM BEACH, B.C. - A British Columbia man's beachcombing trip turned into a harrowing fight for survival as a grizzly bear flailed him around "like a puppet." Fifty-seven-year-old Randal Warnock says he had been walking on the beach on Brown Island on B.C. Source
  • 'Mystery' signal from space is solved; it's not aliens

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Astronomers have finally solved the mystery of peculiar signals coming from a nearby star, a story that sparked intense public speculation this week that perhaps, finally, alien life had been found. It hasn't. The signal, which has been formally named "Weird!" was interference from a distant satellite. Source
  • Possible melted fuel seen for first time at Fukushima plant

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TOKYO -- An underwater robot captured images of solidified lava-like rocks Friday inside a damaged reactor at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, spotting for the first time what is believed to be nuclear fuel that melted six years ago. Source
  • Robot finds likely melted fuel heap inside Fukushima reactor

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TOKYO - An underwater robot has captured images of massive deposits believed to be melted nuclear fuel that are covering the floor of a damaged reactor at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. Source
  • North Atlantic right whale to be examined on N.B. island

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MISCOU ISLAND, N.B. -- Marine mammal experts will examine another North Atlantic right whale today after it was found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The federal Fisheries Department says the necropsy is being conducted near the Miscou Island Lighthouse on the northern tip of Miscou Island, N.B. Source
  • Elephant seals have rhythm and they know how to use it

    Tech & Science CBC News
    New research published in the journal Current Biology finds that elephant seals identify one another by the rhythm in their calls, much the way humans can discern accents and vocal tone. Previously there was no recorded example of a non-human mammal that could remember and recognize a wide range of rhythms. Source
  • Moon dust collected by Neil Armstrong sold for $1.8 million

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A bag containing traces of moon dust sold for $1.8 million at an auction on Thursday following a galactic court battle. The collection bag, used by astronaut Neil Armstrong during the first manned mission to the moon in 1969, was sold at a Sotheby’s auction of items related to space voyages. Source
  • Moon dust collected by Neil Armstrong sold for US$1.8 million

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A bag containing traces of moon dust sold for $1.8 million at an auction on Thursday following a galactic court battle. The collection bag, used by astronaut Neil Armstrong during the first manned mission to the moon in 1969, was sold at a Sotheby’s auction of items related to space voyages. Source
  • China announces goal to dominate AI field by 2030

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BEIJING -- China’s government has announced a goal of becoming a global leader in artificial intelligence in just over a decade, putting political muscle behind growing investment by Chinese companies in developing self-driving cars and other advances. Source