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Zerotech aims to fly high with drones

By Fan Feifei | China Daily | Updated: 2019-02-25 08:53

A visitor takes a close look at a UAV model made by Zerotech at a recent tech show in Beijing. [Provided to China Daily]

Zerotech (Beijing) Intelligence Technology Co Ltd is shifting its focus from consumer drones to industrial drones used in mapping, security, and power line and pipeline inspections, said the company's founder and CEO Yang Jianjun.

Zerotech is also speeding up its expansion in overseas markets, he said. The company's drones have been used in security patrols at railway stations and highways in 13 cities in Guangdong province during this year's Spring Festival travel rush, and in inspecting the petroleum pipeline of PetroChina Changqing Oilfield Company in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province.

"We have been adjusting our strategy since the first half of 2017, and adopted a differentiated strategy as DJI almost has a monopoly on the consumer drone market that has been experiencing a slow growth rate over the last two years," Yang said.

"The industrial drone market has enormous growth potential, but its threshold is relatively high. Restricted by laws and regulations, the drones haven't been given their full play in many fields, such as in catching criminals and in patrolling."

Founded in 2007, Beijing-based Zerotech has been one of the pioneers of Chinese drones. The company used to focus on creating and manufacturing professional unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, which are used in aerial photography, agriculture, and security operations.

It has deepened its efforts in developing products for the consumer market. Partnering closely with international chip maker Qualcomm Inc, Zerotech launched pocket-size selfie drone Dobby in 2016, enabling consumers to enjoy pocket-size tech that enables gadgets to fly in a fun and easy way. However, the company has since suspended its consumer drone business.

During the Spring Festival Gala in 2018, 300 Zerotech light-equipped, air-borne drones "danced" in synchronized fashion as part of a performance, arranging themselves into a three-dimensional shape of a dolphin.

Zerotech has exported such drone formation flight shows to South Korea and the United Arab Emirates. Yang said the company plans to expand its presence in neighboring countries and the Middle East this year.

"We had set the sales revenue target at 100 million yuan ($14.9 million) for 2018, and (when reports last came in) we may have already realized about 85 percent of that target."

In June 2018, Zerotech launched its latest industrial drone ZT-3V with fixed wings that is capable of vertical takeoffs and landings. The drone is designed for surveys, cartographic purposes and military use.

Yang said the company has invested nearly 300 million yuan in the R&D of key technologies relating to drones in the past three years. It has also obtained 263 domestic patents, including five invention patents, 10 patents from the United States and one European patent.

Jin Wei, deputy secretary-general of the China UAVs Industry Innovation Alliance, said drones are widely used in logistics, courier services, power line patrols, emergency rescues, disaster relief, agriculture among other fields, and these industry-related applications will witness an explosive growth.

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