Guest contributions by Tayan Wagner and Steven Wang, edited by Gabriel Bishop
With a well-established leading position in terms of innovation, Switzerland has fostered fruitful bilateral relations with China in this field. Notably, the Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2014 and the Innovative Strategic Partnership and the High-Level Platform of the Sino-Swiss Innovative Strategic Partnership were established respectively in 2016 and 2019.
These partnerships fall in line with the Swiss tradition that consists in continuously investing in brains, producing smart solutions and adding value by providing cutting-edge products; and so has Switzerland steadily established itself as an innovation pioneer. An example of it can be traced back 50 years ago as Switzerland was part of the moon landing program with the OMEGA Speedmaster, the first watch ever worn on the moon, and it has since never ceased to push the limits and explore new frontiers.
Drones represent one of the success areas of the Swiss new technologies. Switzerland is indeed a forerunner in the development of specialized drones, particularly for the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This can in part be explained by the close collaboration between the federal institutes of technology, the industry and the public authorities. More than 2,500 people in over 80 companies in Switzerland now work in digital aviation and in 2017 Swiss Post launched the world's first medical delivery service for business customers in Lugano.
The Drone Grand Prix race (DGP) that took place at the Swiss Embassy in Beijing on June 14 showed just how much Switzerland is at the forefront of drone technologies. This collaboration between DGP, swissnex China and the Swiss Embassy caped off the Innovation Week 2019, Home of Drones, an initiative of Presence Switzerland.
A track race designed especially for the occasion was set up over the perimeter of Embassy, going through the Embassy buildings and the Ambassadors’ residence. It consisted of LED and light loops which illuminated the venue and through which the drones flew.
The drone race confronted two Swiss and two Chinese pilots for a friendly competition. They were flying the drones with a system called first person view (FPV), which is the most popular commanding method as it allows to pilot a drone as if one was inside of it. The DGP drones can reach up to 200km/h, which can prove to be dangerous for the average drone user who may easily lose control of the device. It takes a great amount of training and expertise to be able to fly the drones with such precision at this speed! On this note, swissnex China would like to congratulate the highly skilled pilots for their outstanding performance.
The race was groundbreaking in many ways. It was the first drone race ever held in an Embassy compound, and the first one to ever take place in the Beijing city center. The event proved to be a big success, with over 1000 guests attending. The race was also live-streamed and attracted over 51,000 viewers across various broadcasting platforms, as well as 1.2 million views on the CCTV-CGTN livestream! This showcase of drone racing, which has become the most popular drone sport among pilots, not only left the audience in awe, giving them a thrill similar to the one that comes with F1 racing, but it further provided new insights on the potential use of drones in different contexts. Drones are indeed a multi-faceted and versatile technology and high-speed flights could be a very promising sector for them.
CCTV2 documentary of the drone race: