The world’s largest commercial drone enterprise is now a global superstar. China has become the world’s largest maker of drones, thanks to DJI and companies including Yuneec and PowerVision. These are now used in a variety of applications and daily activities, including pesticide spraying. Multiple heavy-duty quadcopter drones lifted hoses and other firefighting devices in an exciting demonstration in Chongqing in early 2020. Drones are widening China’s locus of possibilities, allowing farmers to cultivate land that was previously unavailable.

China is working to produce more advanced drones for both commercial and military uses. Drones are used to monitor atmospheric processes such as typhoons at high altitudes. When cloud-seeding flights raise rainfall in the Qilian Mountains in early 2021, these operations could make a significant difference. China performed four high-altitude drone flights with specialized meteorological devices in August 2020. Thirty sensors were lowered into a typhoon to conduct three-dimensional tests of the cloud system’s perimeter.

Two new drones have been photographed and released by Chinese state media. Both seem to be Chinese drone prototypes that were initially intended for the Chinese military. China has deployed a number of drones, most of which are used for surveillance. In comparison to consumer-grade drones, the military uses more specialized drones for more complex operations. The PLA uses Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group’s Wing Loong I and II medium-altitude, long-endurance systems, as well as the CH-5 medium-altitude, long-endurance systems. Instead of the batteries that fuel commercial drones, they are powered by internal combustion engines. Many have civilian and military applications, such as monitoring and cloud seeding.

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The Hongdu GJ-11 is a stealthy, jet-powered flying wing with an internal arms bay, according to sources. The Chengdu WZ-8 drone is considered to be an air-launched drone with two rocket engines. The Xi’an H-6 bombers of the PLA air force will fire the drone. The PLA Navy is also thought to be considering high-capacity drones to fly from its third aircraft carrier. An unexplained drone appears to be being primed for takeoff from a land-based catapult in satellite images.

Algeria, Indonesia, and Iraq have also purchased related systems from China. In the export of armed drones, China has done extremely well. This is partly attributed to the United States’ reluctance to sell armed drones to all but its nearest allies. Muslim countries are less likely to use Israeli drones. Last October, the Trump Administration lifted the US’s self-imposed ban on broader drone exports. Jordan has placed up for sale the CH-4 (predecessor to the CH-5) drones.

China has a two-tier arms export scheme, with arms for export that are of poorer quality than those used by the PLA. Because of the mystery covering all of the PLA’s weapons, the outside world knows very little about what they can and cannot do. Drones are becoming an increasingly important part of low-intensity, non-conventional warfare among states with limited defense budgets and day-to-day civilian operations. There is no question that the commercial and military drone industries will continue to develop in the future. Kelley Aerospace, based in Singapore, has announced plans to build its own supersonic drone. It’s also possible that China hasn’t discovered a technological edge in drones.

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