Startup helps China's drones straighten up and fly right

BY  | FROM  | 2017-06-15 15:52

Before setting up his company in 2016, Lan Yudong, 37, had been a pilot in China's Naval Air Force for 15 years.

"Years of flight training and combat experience have left me tightly connected with the sky and aircraft," said Lan.

He was assigned to a well-paid post in a local customs bureau in 2014 but, as unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, became popular in China, Lan once again turned his eyes skyward.

"Civilian drones have a huge market potential, but illegal drone activity is a problem, especially at airports," said Lan.

Many drone flyers have no idea where they can fly a drone legally or how to register one. Public security monitors worry that a drone-filled sky will threaten airspace safety, said Lan.

In July 2016, Lan and his friends set up a firm to develop software to control unmanned aircraft.

In October, Lan's company launched U-Care, a cloud system for civilian drone monitoring.

After logging into the system, drone flyers have access to information about airspace limitations and air traffic control over their flying area.

"The fliers quickly know where they can fly their drones. They can submit applications online for permission to fly in controlled airspace and the monitors reply to them online," said Lan.

For security monitors, the system helps analyze drone routes and controllers' locations. It also gives warnings to those flying too fast or in forbidden airspace. But the software did not catch on.

The drone manufacturers thought a surveillance system would not help sales, and may even reduce them, said Lan.

"We offered it to manufacturers for free at the beginning," he added.

As the problem of more civilian drones brought more safety concerns, authorities began to take measures against unregulated drones.

Form June 1, civilian drones weighing more than 250 grams have been required to be registered under real names. Warnings and fines are given to those who fly in no-fly zones.

Suddenly, drone users and manufacturers became far more interested in safety issues.

"Drone manufacturers have crawled out of the woodwork asking to use our software since the beginning of the month," said Lan.

Dajiang, a leading civilian drone manufacturer, has signed a deal with Lan's company and equipped its drones with his system. He already controls more than 50 percent of the Chinese market.

"The system has received good feedback from both users and manufacturers. We have raised more than 10 million yuan (1.5 million U.S. dollars) in capital. I have great confidence in the market," said Lan.

The overall market of unmanned aerial vehicles is expected to reach 75 billion yuan by 2025 in China, according to an iResearch report in 2016.

"I will do my best to help the industry and reach my individual dream of business success," said Lan.

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