By Jose Bernardo Reyes Facio
BEIJING, February 21 – Drones are becoming big business, and China has carved itself out an impressive part in the global market. They’re not just for raining down death and destruction on enemies, however—drones have a surprising number of other uses.
Shooting fire to burn garbage
Last week, a power company in Xiangyang sent out a drone with the ability to shoot fire in order to burn garbage that was stuck in high voltage electrical wires. Plastic bottles and other waste that was difficult to reach for maintenance staff was reduced to ashes by the power of this technological invention.
Finding people in emergency situations
When the Sichuan earthquake hit back in 2008, Chinese rescuers flew drones equipped with infrared, multi-spectral, and hyper-spectral sensors to be able to assess the damage and look for victims That being said, the use of this technology during emergencies has sometimes been counterproductive. Rescuers at the Tianjin explosion area found that air traffic was clogged due to too much use of drones taking pictures. Amateurs and reporters attempted to use drones to get the latest scoop, frustrating rescue efforts.
Delivering beer or bombs
But we can’t blame people with good intentions. Can we?
When a delivery service from urban areas to China’s countryside via drone was announced last year, online marketplace JD.com got a lot of attention. It was then thought that costs in labor and transportation would be reduced and people living in both rural towns and cities would be more connected. A year after such news, Chinese drones were again making headlines as a new drone was designed with the ability to deliver close to 2000 kilos of bombs.
Spying on TV events
The evolution of drones has proven to be a matter of great importance in China. Drones developed to be powered with solar energy for meteorological and surveillance purposes are planned for operations in the mesosphere between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. But who wants to go to the mesosphere when there’s TV sets to spy on? Drones were discovered spying on the country’s most watched TV event: The Spring Festival Gala. Presented during the eve of Lunar New Year with approximately 700 million viewers turning CCTV on to watch it, the event combines comedy routines and musical numbers. The police of Guilin, where the event is held, shot down and confiscated multiple drones as they “battle an epidemic of aerial spying over an outdoor set in one of the city’s park” during the transmission of this event, as reported by the local newspaper.
Chinese have also used drones to catch cheaters at the famous ‘Gaokao’ national university exam. Invigilators have purchased drones to search radio signals in case a student is using an earpiece, detectable with this technology up to 500 meters above the hall. Flying in silence, the drone sends the exact location of a cheater via tablet-connection, which has led to the arrest of 23 students since May 2015.
Another Chinese company is determined to use drones for transportation – basically a flying taxi. In fact, it has been confirmed that by July this year, a drone system that carries one passenger and luggage will be implemented in Dubai. Fully automatic, the passenger drone is controlled by computer in a command center and is capable of emergency landing, self-diagnosing issues, and avoiding obstacles.
In contrast, another Chinese company has developed underwater drones with integrated cameras and gadget-styled hooks that allow users to fish in salt, fresh, or icy water up to 30 meters below the surface.
Will you drone-marry me?
The success of this technology has been so popular that some people in China have used it to propose. Zhang Ziyi, a famous Chinese actress, yet again mae online waves after her musician boyfriend Wang Feng proposed to her by sending her a diamond ring in a drone.
Breaking Guinness World Records
In light of the Lantern Festival celebrated in Guangzhou, instead of the traditional lamps made out of paper and candles, people in this southern city illuminated the sky by flying 1,000 drones equipped with led lights. The drones, flying at 100 meters above the ground broke a Guinness World Record when they formed the number ‘2017’, the character fu (福 – fortune), and the number 1,000.
As a Gaokao university exam question
After taking the famous exam, students have commented on the questions that appear on the exam and a ‘Drone Law’ appears in one of them:
Is it possible to maintain conflicting loyalties? For example, you have dedicated your life to promoting a drone-supremacist sovereignty, which requires you to end your human life, but you are also a human who would like to live. Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, and duty to uphold Drone Law.
Ultimately, the first use of any technology is generally plain old “messing around”. This Chinese man, for instance, strapped roman candles to a drone, and the result is worthy of an action movie.