The metropolis of Shenzhen, China is a powerhouse of drone engineering and manufacturing. We spoke with the President and CEO of main industrial drone producer MMC, Zhihui Lu, to seek out out what new developments are on the horizon and what he sees in retailer for the business in 2017.
DRONELIFE’s Harry McNabb had the chance to go to MMC’s modern new workplaces final 12 months – however loads has occurred within the business and the corporate since then. Since launching the world’s first industrial hydrogen gasoline cell drone final April, the corporate’s pipeline has exploded with orders. They’ve already launched the second technology of the Hydrone, specialised for the navy market. They’ve developed an entire hydrogen drone answer, together with a generator, compressor, cylinder and gasoline cell for different drones, together with the DJI M600. But MMC isn’t sitting nonetheless – the business is shifting quick and so they’re shifting with it.
DL: The drone world has modified considerably within the final 12 months. What do you see as the most important modifications in industrial drones?
President of MMC, Zhihui Lu: While the drone world has modified loads, most of the market shift has been on the leisure aspect. The industrial market nonetheless hasn’t modified sufficient – particularly in growing nations.
DL: MMC is a worldwide firm. In what components of the world are you seeing essentially the most development within the utilization of industrial drones and why do you suppose that it’s occurring in that specific space?
Lu: From our expertise, navy, inspection and agriculture are the most important development areas for industrial drones. In the navy market, we see loads of development within the center east; for power inspection work, China and the US are the most important development areas. China, Korea, and Europe are the quickest rising markets for agriculture drones. That being stated, the industrial drone market continues to be a lot smaller than the marketplace for leisure drones.
DL: As a Chinese based mostly industrial drone firm, what have you ever discovered as you expanded outdoors of China?
Lu: I used to be a co-founder of DJI and our CMO Lin Lu and I used to work for Huawei – our expertise was in following western opponents and permitting them to teach abroad purchasers. However, within the industrial drone business, we’ve to do that by ourselves: and it may be troublesome to get purchasers to undertake new applied sciences in growing nations. We’ve needed to arrange an infrastructure of native branches and repair facilities, and we have to frequently current and reveal our know-how. It might be even more durable to get purchasers in developed nations just like the US to simply accept new applied sciences, as a result of of the regulatory hurdles.
DL: Have you skilled any surprises?
Lu: The degree of ROI in growing nations for functions like protection and safety is absolutely beautiful. And for functions like energy line stringing, the financial savings are unimaginable in value, time and accidents.
In 2016, we supplied over 1000 kilometers of excessive voltages towers energy line stringing in China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Nepal, Georgia, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. Power line stringing appears to be like easy, however the jobs in several atmosphere are actually sophisticated. To make drone know-how out there to purchasers in growing nations, we’ve needed to develop an entire package deal for them, together with flight planning, pilot coaching, and after service.
DL: Looking ahead, what do you expect within the drone house in 2017?
Lu: The actual industrial drone answer must be launched in 2017. So far, the so-called industrial answer isn’t sufficient – there’s not a sufficiently big distinction from the DJI shopper product. Hopefully MMC shall be introducing this answer by the tip of this 12 months.
DL: DJI has dominated the leisure and prosumer house to this point. While we all know MMC is not on this house, do you suppose that anybody can catch them? Who ought to we glance out for?
Lu: DJI is absolutely sturdy now. Maybe some big from outdoors of drone business will be capable of catch DJI – however I don’t suppose it’ll be Intel or Qualcomm.
DL: In the industrial house, we see a posh mixture of producers like MMC, point-to-point suppliers comparable to PrecisionHawk and Kespry, and navy suppliers which are going downstream into the industrial house comparable to AeroVironment, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon. How do you suppose that this may play out within the subsequent 12 months or so?
Lu: PrecisionHawk and Kespry appear to be specializing in knowledge and repair now, and I don’t suppose they are going to proceed improvement. I believe most of the US drone firms will use a mannequin like Skycatch: a DJI drone + software. MMC will preserve growing and manufacturing industrial drones, particularly the hydrogen drone.
Hopefully AeroVironment, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon will go downstream in 2017. Military ought to be the primary place to use industrial multicoper drones. I examined the Lockheed Martin flight controller, and I’ve to say, proper now it’s too sophisticated for the industrial market. Multicopter drones simply are not like conventional huge fastened wing drones: in the event that they don’t optimize, it is going to be arduous to get it adopted as customary tools within the military.
DL: What is the brand new know-how popping out of China as we speak? You have been leaders in getting hydrogen powered drones out there, what do you see as the following degree of know-how popping out of China within the subsequent 12 months?
Lu: There are so many drone firms in China – together with DJI, simply 5 kilo meters away from us. More than 20,000 drone engineers work very arduous on a regular basis in Shenzhen. Anything might occur in 2017!
In the previous couple of months, our R&D division has elevated by 200 engineers. You will certainly see some new merchandise from MMC, particularly in hydrogen powered drones. I imagine flight endurance will not be a bottleneck for industrial drones after 2017.
DL: What else do you need to inform us about?
Lu: We actually need to deal with the best worth drone functions proper now, to permit our purchasers to get the worth of new know-how. In actuality, drone know-how is simply not mature sufficient for a lot of functions, like pesticide agriculture and a few inspection functions. That’s why as a producer, we’re specializing in energy line stringing and different excessive worth functions – we’ll wait on some of the opposite merchandise and options.