Vertiports crucial to expansion of aerial delivery sector in China, says official

In terms of annual output, Chinese UAV industry contributed 117 billion yuan (US$16.42 billion) last year and is projected to leap about 50% to 160 billion yuan as of 2024.

Chinese drone companies need to multiply the number of their vertiports to increase the application of drone delivery, a senior Chinese official said recently.

Phoenix Wings (丰翼无人机) and Antwork (迅蚁科技), two domestic drone delivery service providers, have built around 400 and 140 vertiports nationwide, Wang Weijun said on December 14.

Wang is the director of Aerial Delivery Office at the Freight Department of Civil Aviation Administration of China,

Wang made the remarks at a domestic civil aviation industry conference in Yantai of eastern China’s Shandong Province on December 14.

Shenzhen-based Phoenix Wings, a subsidiary of delivery giant SF Express (顺丰速运), currently operate 200 flight paths around the country, Wang said.

He added that Antwork, a Hangzhou-headquartered startup, now has 250 flight paths under operation.

From the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020) onward, China’s drone industry has been growing at a breakneck speed.

In 2022 alone, 2,467 new ventures were up and running, bringing the total to some 13,000.

Flight hours of UAVs across the nation amounted to 20.67 million hours, up 6.2% year on year, according to Wang.

He didn’t disclose the source of the information.

A 50% leap by 2024?

In terms of annual output, Chinese UAV industry contributed 117 billion yuan (US$16.42 billion) last year and is projected to leap about 50% to 160 billion yuan as of 2024.

A breakdown of the expected revenue indicates that drone delivery is forecast to generate 30 billion yuan by the end of next year, representing a fifth of the entire market size.

Major constraints include the limited number of vertiports, or vertipads, for the take-off and landing of UAVs.

Wang called for efforts to deepen reforms in low-altitude airspace management and guide drone developers to accelerate construction of vertiports by themselves.

As drone-led delivery emerges as a key application scenario, logistics giants like SF Express, JD Group, ZTO and Meituan have gone into overdrive to weave a drone logistics network and monetize drone technologies.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Trip.com Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at nitao0927@gmail.com.

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