Global Opportunities

The Drone Market is Booming in China

Opportunities for Swiss Start-ups and SMEs

In recent years, the drone industry, in China also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry, has expanded rapidly with an intensive use of UAVs in different sectors. This provides various concrete business opportunities for Swiss drone companies, which offer very attractive high-tech solutions. Learn here, how you can benefit from these opportunities and participate at the Swiss Innovation Week 2019: Home of Drones in Beijing.

a drone with a city background

In order to present the interesting, drone-related sectors and to help Swiss drone companies find Chinese investors and business partners, the Swiss Embassy in Beijing organizes the Swiss Innovation Week 2019: Home of Drones in Beijing (12 – 14 June 2019).

Be part of the Embassy of Switzerland’s biggest event this year and help shape and promote Switzerland’s image as the most innovative country in the world!

Policies and regulations support from the Chinese government

According to the UAV guideline published by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the ministry has planned to establish and revise more than 200 rules covering the research, production, application and safety regulation of civilian drones.

China wants its UAV industry to take off to 27 billion USD in total output by 2025 and this sector is expected to grow annually by 40% by 2020 and 25% after that.

In July 2017, the State Council of China released the “New Generation Artificial Intelligence (AI) Development Plan”. The aim of the plan is to guide China to become a world leader in AI by 2030. The development of AI has been raised up to the level of a national strategy. The UAV is one of the focus sectors.

The above-mentioned national strategy guideline calls for the development of consumer and commercial UAVs, unmanned vessels. At the same time, it also calls for the establishment of professional service systems such as test identification, testing and competition, and the improvement of airspace and waters management measures. In 2018, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has published a report on the country's civilian UAV industry. The MIIT report noted that China is playing a leading role worldwide in consumer UAV product manufacturing and in the future, the ministry will promote national unified management of the industry, strengthen its competitive edge and help foster several leading drone manufacturers by 2020.

Drone focused sectors and cities in China

With an economy growing at 6.5% and an extremely diverse geographical density in the country, China provides the perfect blend of urban and rural delivery environments to make drone delivery useful.

  1. JD.Com, China’s second largest online retailer, has been building up in 2017 a drone-delivery network that covers 100 rural villages leveraging 40 unmanned aircrafts.
  2. SF Express, arguably the leader in drone delivery internationally, recently became the first company with a Drone Operator License in China; providing a scale of delivery that is unparalleled anywhere else.

With an estimated 80% of all business to consumer deliveries falling into the high-value, low-weight category, drones will soon be a disruptive force in last-mile delivery in China.

  • In August 2018, Shanghai's Jinshan Industrial Zone officially opened an UAV base, which is the first compound in China allowing drones to carry out multi-scenario testing and applications. Shanghai’s Jinshan district has quickly become fertile ground for China’s unmanned aerial systems research, development and testing. This base shows the action of the Chinese government’s investment in the drone industry.
  • Taizhou government in Zhejiang province is building a characteristic town themed on UAVs for the development of its local aviation industry. The city has a well-established manufacturing system with more than 20 companies specializing in industries related to the aviation sector. And the UAVs town plan is also included in the "13th Five-Year Plan" of Zhejiang Aviation Industry.
  • According to the Shenzhen UAV Industry Association, in 2017, the output of Chinese civilian drones was 11 billion RMB (1.6 billion USD), a rise of 67% year-on-year, with 80% made in Shenzhen. The city is becoming the world’s hub of the rising drone industry. Shenzhen Economic Daily reported that Shenzhen’s UAV exports surpassing 600,000 in the first half of 2018. Shenzhen government also clarified that Shenzhen should be more inclusive and supportive of drone industry and strike a balance between ensuring safety and promoting the development of drone industry

Opportunities for the Swiss Start-ups and SMEs

Innovation is inside the Swiss spirit and Swiss drones companies use this spirit to conquer the market. The UAV industry is not only drone manufacturing, but also drone applications and software.

More than 2,500 people in over 80 companies in Switzerland now work in this sector. The innovative Swiss application and software can help to position Switzerland as a forerunner in the development of specialized drones, particularly for the commercial use of the UAVs.

In the commercial drones market, China is already well developed regarding spare parts manufacturing, drone manufacturing, e-commerce and offline experience stores, training, maintenance services. Nevertheless, the Swiss drone industry is still keeping the leading position in the world and the relevant Swiss Start-ups and SMEs will certainly have great opportunities in specific sectors of the Chinese drone industry market, such as:


Sensors and Analytics

Currently, most consumer drones integrate some elements of autonomous operation, but still require human control at various stages. Autonomous functions rely quite a lot on sensors, the sensors need to be super-fast, have no motion blur and have a very high dynamic range both in low and very bright light. Swiss drones already have this technology and additionally, the Swiss industry sensors industry has a great reputation which could help the relevant Chinese industry. At the same time, Swiss scientists are developing AI analytics - an AI-powered platform is available which is the first geospatial analytics platform allowing professional drone-mapping services providers to easily harness the power of deep learning without the need of any programming skills.

Industrial Inspection

Some Swiss drones have the expertise to be used in the industrial sector, such as chemicals, oil, electricity or canalization. They can reach inaccessible areas, reducing not only costs but also the risk of fatal accident. Or hard-to-reach places, providing precise information on the possible cracks, corrosion or other damage caused by time, natural phenomena or chemical substances. And in China there are great numbers of industrial infrastructures or facilities which qualify for this application and there is definitely a growing desire to apply safety standards for employees. Thus, these Swiss drones could have quite a big market and promising demands for their technology. Today, Shanghai Municipal Investment Water (Group) Co., Ltd already uses the Swiss drones to inspect the urban underground sewage pipeline.

Defense, Security & Traffic Management

Swiss drones are widely used in the field of defense, security & traffic management. Take the police forces for instance, such as specialized in operations against kidnapping and terrorism not only in Europe & American, but also in China. Some of the Chinese police stations already started to use Swiss drone products. The drones could play an important role in traffic management, especially during the holiday or festival period or big events. Thanks to the excellent performance of the Swiss technology, Swiss drones could be on the Chinese companies’ or government’s purchasing list.


Swiss drones are working on various geodata projects in the field of urban planning and land use, with a view towards shaping better cities and coping with deforestation and crop disease. For example, drones in Namibia work with artificial intelligence technology to count wild animals more efficiently. In China, there are quite a lot of potential sectors, such as agriculture or environmental monitoring, which could use Swiss drones in their work and use Swiss technology and experience to identify terrain vulnerable to landslides.


Swiss drone companies have a very good know-how of controlling and operating drones in indoor space for big events or performances, especially of a large number of group drones at the same time. Today, the civilian drones market is booming, with more and more devices being developed for an application in sports, arts and commercial activities, where China also has a great market demand. The 2019 CCTV (China Central Television) New Year’s Gala event also collaborated with a Swiss company, which is a solid proof of the attractiveness of Swiss drone technology.

Humanitarian sector

Today, more and more drones are increasingly deployed in disaster situation, many of them are used for disaster relief and sustainable development effort. The most   common use for drones in humanitarian response are mapping and monitoring, delivering suppliers and medicines and search-and-rescue efforts. The Swiss drones companies using drones in humanitarian contexts require the expertise and capacity to analyze large volumes of aerial image data. Swiss drones are already in use in the humanitarian sector. For instance, they can work together with firefighters, representatives of insurance companies to check the damage, access a building after a fire or earthquake to assess liability or damage. Particularly with the development of artificial neural networks in Switzerland, drones can have self-learning skills to solve the tasks by examples very soon. 

Swiss Innovation Week 2019: Home of Drones - Join us!

Following the fruitful bilateral relations between Switzerland and China in the field of innovation, the second edition of the Swiss Innovation Week (SIW 2019) will take place on 12th -14th June 2019 at the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and this year will focus on drones!

All Swiss Start-ups and SMEs active in sectors like traffic management, analytics, sensors, humanitarian, solar propulsion, flight systems, scouting, entertainment, etc. are welcome to join.

This event offers a unique opportunity for Swiss drone companies to gain prestige and visibility and to meet with potential Chinese investors and business partners.

Be part of the Embassy of Switzerland’s biggest event this year and help shape and promote Switzerland’s image as the most innovative country in the world! Get in contact with our Senior Consultant China, Daniel Bont.