It’s no secret that China is the top manufacturer of drones in the world. DJI, Yuneec, MMC, and even US-based drone company 3DR now run their manufacturing operations in China. What is it that makes Chinese drone factories the most competitive in the world? Roswell Flight Test Crew’s Patrick “Lucidity” Sherman traveled across the Pacific to take a rare look inside one of China’s drone factories to find out for himself.
“MMC is doing some legitimately interesting work,” said Sherman. “First of all, the potential of their drones powered by hydrogen fuel cells is obviously enormous. We’ve pretty much hit the limits of lithium-polymer battery technology, so if we’re going to break out of that 20-25 minute flight time, it’s going to be using something else.”
As DRONELIFE reported we first previewed the Hydrogen Drone on our visit to China, the company has achieved flight times in excess of three hours using compact, lightweight, and replaceable hydrogen fuel cells. A soon-to-be-released next generation is expected to achieve flight times of over 8 hours. There are a number of drone applications that will benefit from long distance flights such as policing, search and rescue, pipeline inspection and surveillance, construction over large sites, and agriculture.
The Roswell Flight Test Crew is currently working with MMC to begin testing this technology in the United States, including the safe and reliable use of pressurized hydrogen as as a fuel source. While other hydrogen drones may be in development, this is the first production quality drone to market using this technology.
The MMC factory is impressive, Sherman says. Given their focus on commercial rather than recreational Drones, MMC has designed and build a world class facility, that includes Research and Development, manufacturing, training and support. And the drones they produce are innovative: “I also really like their quick-change payload system: it’s really ingenious, and they have gone well beyond aerial video in terms of what they can deliver. I’ve been wanting to build an aerial spotlight for years, and they went ahead and did it – and it works great. And their flying megaphone!? I love it! But you can also see some very practical applications in fields such as search and rescue and law enforcement.” The test facility on the main development campus allows MMC to do testing on their drones quickly and easily, tightening the development process.
While California tech culture involves ping pong tables and video games, Chinese culture is interwoven with the development process in the MMC factory, allowing a smoothly running and tightly bound team to innovate. The lead designer, Mr. Dang, has his own custom carbon fiber tea tray: Susan Sun, the US Branch Manager, was happy to share language tips with the crew.
Patrick Sherman is an internationally recognized expert in the drone community, the author of more than 100 published articles in magazines including RotorDrone, Drone360, Drones, Model Aviation and Drone in the UK.
In addition, Sherman is known worldwide as “Lucidity,” the public face of the Roswell Flight Test Crew, a popular YouTube series with more than 2.7 million views and 15,000 subscribers.