26 Sep 2018

Shenzhen: The Heart of the Drone Economy

The first FAI World Drone Racing Championship is being held in November in Shenzhen, China. The city has earned the label, "The heart of the drone economy" – but why?

One big reason is that it is the heart of world's consumer electronics manufacturing industry. And as part of that DJI, the global leader in manufacturing drones, is based in there.

DJI is just one of the estimated 1,200 companies involved in making drones or their components in China today, but it is by far the largest, responsible for more than 70 percent of the world's drone market, according to Xinhua News.

And that market is growing. Almost three million "hobby drones" were manufactured in China in 2017, a year-on-year increase of 67 percent.

It's not just hobby drones that are booming either. At a drones expo held in – where else? – Shenzhen in June this year, the whole range of drones in the emerging drone ecosystem was on display: from drones that fold up into the size of a mobile phone, to 200kg agriculture drones that fly at 75km/h and carry 250kg of fertiliser.

The focus on drones is part of a wider technology boom that has seen the city's population and economy explode. In 1985 Shenzhen was just small coastal town of 30,000 people close to Hong Kong. But it then became one of China's first Special Economic Zones, areas where entrepreneurial and foreign investment is encouraged.

Shenzhen hasn’t stopped growing since, and now has a population of 15 million, with an economy to match. Today, it is said that 90% of the world's electronics hardware is made in Shenzhen. That includes phones, televisions and of course drones.

In November when the world's best drone pilots converge on Shenzhen they will race in the futuristic-looking Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre, a black-glass and steel stadium built in 2011 that can hold 60,000 spectators.

Drone pilots will come from all across the world to fly and compete between 1-4 November. They will be joined by a myriad of drone racing officials and race supporters, including FAI Judges, and FAI Global Technical Partner Noosphere, which is running the competition's event management system.

They will find a city that is at the cutting edge of the electronics age – and leading the world in the design, development and manufacture of the new world of drones.

FAI Drone Racing World Championships, 1-4 November 2018, Shenzhen, China
Photo credit: FAI / Marcus King