Optics Valley opens the first “low altitude economic service window” in China, and Wuhan focuses on manufacturing end shortcomings

Wuhan should focus on the manufacturing and application of medium and large unmanned aerial vehicles in order to achieve overtaking on bends.

Between the blue sky and the ground, the low altitude economy is rapidly rising.

On April 29th, Wuhan Donghu High tech Zone (also known as “China Optics Valley”) announced to the public that it will open the country’s first “low altitude economic service window” at the Optics Valley Government Service Center, aiming to explore offline convenient service channels. In the early stage, it mainly provides a package of business consulting and assistance services for enterprises and the public, including drone registration, activity application, airspace reporting, etc.

The so-called low altitude economy refers to a comprehensive economic form that radiates multiple fields within the airspace below 3000 meters, driven by low altitude flight activities of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles. According to a report released by CCID Research Institute, it is expected that China’s low altitude economy will exceed one trillion yuan by 2026.

According to research conducted by First Financial Journalists, Wuhan’s low altitude economy started early and has a high starting point, especially in the downstream development of the application market and other industrial chains. At the same time, there is still a significant gap between Wuhan’s low altitude economic industry and developed regions in the upstream and midstream areas of aviation materials, key components, core equipment, drones, and aircraft manufacturing. Universities, market entities, and government departments need to work together to fill the gaps in the industrial chain.

Four “national firsts” in drone applications

Recently, a drone took off from the automatic hangar located at the Guanshan Highway Inspection Station in Wuhan Optics Valley and carried out daily patrol missions according to the pre-set route.

“Our drones are capable of carrying 1K ultra clear infrared gimbal cameras, gas detectors, and other payloads, equipped with cutting-edge technologies such as millimeter wave radar perception and multi machine relay networking. It’s like having a ‘thousand mile eye’, which can accurately identify ground scenes and detect harmful gases from several kilometers away, such as fire and smoke, floating objects in rivers, and illegal buildings.” Chen Hu, General Manager of Puzhou Technology, told reporters from First Financial News that as early as November 2022, Puzhou Technology and Optics Valley jointly built the Donghu High tech Zone Low Altitude Shared Drone Application Demonstration Zone. The first phase of the project has built 11 sets of unmanned aerial vehicle automatic hangars for six units, including urban management, water management, and traffic management, in urban traffic management. Good results have been achieved in fire warning, environmental inspections, emergency response, and other aspects. The second phase of the project is expected to be completed and accepted in October this year. At that time, there will be 186 drones of various types and 128 sets of automatic hangars of various types, which will be used in 28 urban governance application scenarios and 6 economic and life application scenarios, achieving full regional coverage of 518 square kilometers.

Chen Hu said that the Donghu High tech Zone Low Altitude Shared Drone Application Demonstration Zone will achieve four “national firsts”: the first low altitude IoT covering the entire area, the largest low altitude usage and data volume; The first low altitude drone to share and build multiple departments, with simultaneous calculation and data sharing; The first low altitude and smart city multi scenario integrated governance, and the first complete low altitude operation system in China; The first typical low altitude industry information security project and the only nominated low altitude governance information security model project by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

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Huang Feng, Deputy Director of the Management Committee of Donghu High tech Zone, stated that Optics Valley is a gathering place for drone enterprises in Wuhan. Currently, 80% of the city’s enterprises engaged in drone research and development, production, sales, training, and services are concentrated here, and they have industry-leading research and development advantages in surveying, infrared, data transmission, and other areas. Since 2023, the region has flown a total of 11568 drones, with a total flight time of 6178 hours and a coverage area of 300 square kilometers.

Tao Jun, Deputy Director of Donghu High tech Zone Branch of Wuhan Public Security Bureau, introduced that drones have become increasingly widely used in the field of public safety due to their flexible, efficient, and multifunctional characteristics. Compared with traditional work methods, drones can greatly improve the efficiency of police work, achieve rapid perception and precise control with scientific and technological strength, effectively enhance the control ability of social order and the guarantee service ability of public safety. “Technology empowerment and aerial escort” has become the standard configuration of security activities in Optics Valley Public Security.

Next, Donghu High tech Zone will be guided by the needs of enterprises and the public, deepen low altitude economic window services, further expand service offerings, inject stronger momentum into accelerating the development of low altitude economic industries, opening up new fields and winning new tracks, and help Wuhan become a highland for the development of low altitude economic industries in China.

Urgent need to make up for manufacturing end shortcomings

According to a research report by CITIC Securities, the low altitude economy has a long industrial chain and a wide range of radiation. The upstream mainly consists of raw materials (including metal raw materials, special rubber and polymer materials, etc.) and core components (including batteries, motors, flight controls, aircraft bodies, etc.) for building various low altitude products in the midstream; The midstream mainly involves low altitude product manufacturing, low altitude flight, low altitude support, and comprehensive services; Downstream mainly includes operations and various application scenarios (including tourism, logistics, cultural tourism, and inspection industries).

According to research conducted by First Financial Journalists, as early as 2017, Wuhan Hannan General Aviation Airport (hereinafter referred to as “Hannan Airport”) completed its first test flight and held the World Flyer Conference, which can be seen as the first year for Wuhan to launch the low altitude economic industry engine.

However, in the view of Li Lingling, Secretary General of the Hubei UAV Industry Association, Wuhan has been facing the problem of “heavy application and light manufacturing” in the development of low altitude economy in the past decade. On the one hand, it is because the talent reserve is biased towards the application end. Wuhan University’s School of Remote Sensing Information Engineering and School of Surveying and Mapping have provided a large number of innovative resources and high-end talents in surveying, infrared, data transmission and other fields to the industry, while the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, which supplies talents to the low altitude economic industry manufacturing end, was not established until 2015. In contrast, Beihang, Shenyang Airlines, Xi’an University of Technology, and Zhejiang University have provided strong talent support for the rapid development of the local low altitude aircraft manufacturing industry.

On April 25th, the University of Science and Technology of Central China and 26 other universities jointly launched the Great Ideological and Political Alliance for Aerospace and Aerospace Departments in Wuhan, aiming to cultivate high-quality aerospace talents through resource co construction, teacher sharing, and complementary advantages.

Li Lingling told First Financial reporters that in the field of low altitude flight manufacturing, there are numerous private enterprises gathered, which are constrained by the limitations of capital, talent, and market demand. Some have disappeared from the market trend, while others have to transform into downstream application markets in order to survive. This situation is particularly significant in Wuhan.

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Dianying Technology is a Wuhan based enterprise engaged in the production, manufacturing, and research and development of medium and large unmanned aerial vehicles. Chairman Cai Xiaodong told First Financial that in the first seven years of the company’s establishment, due to unstable and unstable order demand, the annual order volume was only 20-30 units, which could not support the normal operation of the enterprise. The company had to shift from manufacturing to application services and unmanned aerial vehicle training. It was not until 2020, stimulated by the demand for epidemic control and contactless services, that the enterprise returned to its main business. The annual order volume increased to one or two hundred units, and the revenue in the first quarter of this year exceeded that of last year, with an expected annual revenue of over 100 million yuan.

Cai Xiaodong frankly stated that the local drone industry chain enterprises in Wuhan are generally not large in scale, with a total annual output value of 2 billion yuan. Compared with the first tier of the domestic drone industry, Wuhan still has a certain gap. At the same time, on the new track of low altitude economy trillion industry, what truly reflects high output value and high added value is still in the manufacturing end, especially in the direction of cargo and manned drones. “To achieve overtaking on curves, Wuhan should focus on the manufacturing and application of medium and large drones.”.

In order to fill the gaps in the manufacturing end of the low altitude economy, Wuhan will introduce several measures to support the high-quality development of the low altitude economy. For newly established low altitude economic enterprises with a business scope of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) and large and medium-sized unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as research and development, manufacturing, and commercial operation of core components, a maximum settlement reward of 10 million yuan will be given. At the same time, adopting the urban linkage approach, comprehensive support will be provided to newly settled enterprises in terms of spatial security, site construction, equipment procurement, and talent introduction.

Li Lingling suggested that Wuhan should connect various links in the low altitude economic industry chain, such as research and development, manufacturing, testing, application, and service. “The industry not only needs to have a sound ‘Five Fingers’, but also needs to hold a fist in order to gather strength, focus on development, and reverse the situation.”.

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