Low-altitude aircraft finds big market in China’s agri sector

By Xinhua
Published : 20 Apr 2024 08:26 PM

An agricultural service station in Youyi County in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, displaying an array of agricultural drone models, has emerged as a popular hangout spot for local farmers.

Serving as a service center for Chinese drone maker DJI, the agricultural station features the latest addition to its lineup -- the T60 model -- known for its heavy load capacity and one-click take-off feature. "Many interested buyers came to see the T60 drone priced at about 55,000 yuan (about 7,604 U.S. dollars) since its market launch in October last year," said Lu Jian'an, head of the store.

The store offers maintenance and software upgrades for purchased drone products, Lu added, as he flew a T60 drone to help a buyer test its performance capabilities. It also buys back outdated models from farmers. "We added fertilizer into the drone's sprinkler to test its spraying functionality, which completed the task in less than 30 seconds," Lu explained to the buyer.

According to Lu, the store has sold more than 80 units of the new model.

Zhu Jiayu, a local farmer, said that he visited the store for software upgrading of his T50 drone to prepare for rice planting work in early May.

"Thanks to this drone, I don't need to hire helpers for spraying fertilizers and pesticides in fields," he said, adding that he can also earn extra income by offering his services to assist other farmers with spraying tasks using the drone.

Heilongjiang's grain output amounted to 77.88 billion kg in 2023, sustaining first rank in China for 14 consecutive years. Agricultural experts believe that the per-unit yields of grain crops in the province still have room for improvement.

Meanwhile, low-altitude aircraft manufacturers are eyeing the market to help boost grain production efficiency.

Harbin United Aircraft Technology Co., Ltd., based in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang, in early April kicked off construction of its industrial base for producing large unmanned helicopters.

"Our parent company, Shenzhen United Aircraft Technology Co., Ltd., selected the site for the base in January," said Sun Liye, general manager of the company, expressing his gratitude to the local government for its support.

The company's TD550 model unmanned helicopter, with a flight range of eight hours and a load capacity of more than 200 kg, can be used to assist fire fighting, forest and grass inspection, agriculture and forestry plant protection, transportation and delivery.

Upon its completion in 2027, the 2.5 billion yuan project will establish research, modification and manufacturing facilities dedicated to unmanned helicopters, with an annual output value expected to reach 1 billion yuan, according to Sun.