An unmanned helicopter searches a valley hit by the April 20 earthquake in Ya'an, Sichuan province. (Photo/Xinhua)
China Ewatt Technology yesterday signed a contract with US firm Fetters AeroSpace to jointly invest 500 million yuan (US$81 million) to build China's largest production base for unmanned aerial vehicles in Wuhan. The deal represents the first venture between China and the US in civil drones, news website cnhubei.com reports.
The venture aims to reach an annual production of more than 1,000 UAVs in the near term, up from Ewatt's current annual production capacity of 200 aircraft, the report said, citing Ewatt executive director Zhao Guocheng.
The US partner will send roughly 10 technical and management experts to join the venture, though Ewatt will be in control of management.
Ewatt, founded some three years ago, has become a leading company in China's UAV industry. It will be the only Chinese drone company joining the US UAV show in September this year, the report said. After April's Lushan earthquake, Ewatt sent two of its drones to help record earthquake damage, and help power companies in rebuilding power supplies.
Zhao said the joining of the US partner will help upgrade Ewatt's core competitiveness as the US is leading worldwide in the UAV technology.
Fetters is a renowned US UAV company founded by Dennis Fetters, who has developed low-cost, quality UAVs for more than 30 years, the report said.
Fetters has advanced drone technology, while Ewatt has strong sales networks in China, with eight sales points established already, aiming for the nation's huge potential UAV market, Zhao said.
China has faced many technological bottlenecks in developing UAVs, especially in loading capacity. The arrival of Fetters can resolve the problem, Zhao said. In the next three to five years, the venture plans to develop UAVs with a payload capacity of 50 kilograms, 200 kilograms, and even 300 kilograms, Zhao said.