At an Air Show in China, Drones, Not Jets, Are the Stars

At the World Fly-In Expo, an air show held in the central Chinese city of Wuhan last month, jets, hot air balloons, autogiros and ultralight planes were upstaged by Chinese-made drones.

Remote-controlled flying machines drew crowds at exhibition booths and performed in tight formation, high above the ground. Teams in brightly colored jackets raced industrial drones and competed in events like delivering parcels and spraying plumes of mock pesticide.

But, is this a good thing? As D.J.I. courts more industrial customers such as utilities and developers, the company’s drones — and the vast quantities of footage taken by their cameras — have come under scrutiny.

Drones in China inspect power lines, survey fires and disaster zones, spray crops, and monitor air pollution around factories. In some remote areas, they have delivered packages. Online retailers and logistics companies are aiming to expand drone deliveries by signing more agreements with local governments.United States customs officials said in a memo this year that D.J.I.’s drones were sending sensitive information about American infrastructure back to China. The report, from the Los Angeles office of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau, cited an unnamed source in the drone industry.

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