BEIJING (TheStreet) -- Chinese investors expect drones to start sharing the nation's skies with the kites and trained pigeons retirees often fly in parks.
Tight airspace restrictions enforced nationwide by China's military would have to be seriously modified before drones could be used regularly for urban planning, power line inspections and other tasks that proponents of unmanned aircraft are predicting.
China's airspace is so tightly controlled that helicopters and airliners are seldom seen outside airport zones. Drones are even rarer.
However, a variety of drones for defense and civilian applications have been developed by branches of the giant, state-owned conglomerate Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC), such as its Hongdu Aviation unit, which makes air force fighter and training jets. Stock analyst reports say Hongdu -- which has been building aircraft since 1951 -- is now building a line of advanced military drones.
The government's recent announcement of a 12% hike in defense spending for the coming year has raised profit hopes among drone makers and their investors.Meanwhile, as part of the government's pledge to fight air pollution, the Minister of Environmental Protection said last week that drones had been dispatched to monitor smokestack emissions in Beijing and two nearby provinces. Each aircraft flies about two hours daily to scan 70 square kilometers for emissions-rule violators.