At the ancient resort town of Shexiang in southwest China's Guizhou Province, 500 drones with twinkling lights soared into the sky, forming patterns resembling a dragon, a phoenix and a lotus successively, as curious tourists pulled out cell phones to capture the incredible spectacle.
The drone fleets were hired by the local tourism company in charge of the resort management.
Yuan Yuan, chairperson of the company, said the performance was held four times last month, with the tourist number hitting a record high of 100,000 when it debuted on Jan. 18.
"Even a small squid barbecue stall raked in a revenue of approximately 8,000 yuan (about 1,127 U.S. dollars) on that day, more than 10 times the usual amount," she added.
Long Lipin, manager of the drone performance company called Digital Intelligence Culture, said the company based in the provincial capital of Guiyang has put on 12 drone fleet shows since last August, earning a total business revenue of 1.55 million yuan as of the end of 2023.
From official celebrations such as the opening ceremony of the Hangzhou Asian Games to commercial promotions, birthday parties and marriage proposals, drone fleet performances have become increasingly popular in China, with the market size constantly expanding in recent years.
Lu Lingyue, general manager of a leading drone performance company in east China's Jiangxi Province, said the company organized 175 fleet shows in 2023, about twice the number in 2022, with performances held in more than 100 cities at home and abroad.
"Beyond catering to university and corporate clients for events such as founding anniversaries, we are witnessing a growing number of individual clients for personal celebrations like birthday parties and marriage proposals," said Lu, adding that enthusiastic fans occasionally engage drone fleets as a unique way to express their affection for their idols.
On Oct. 5, 2023, fans of Tan Jianci, a Chinese singer and actor, organized a drone fleet performance involving 500 drones to celebrate Tan's birthday in Hengdian in Zhejiang Province, attracting a sizable audience, including Tan himself.
The aerial vehicles created messages such as "Happy Birthday, Tan Jianci," and visual displays, including an image of a man passionately singing into a microphone, according to multiple videos uploaded on the microblogging site Weibo.com.
On Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, searching for "marriage proposals with drones" yields over 1,000 short videos, with some amassing more than 1 million likes.
The Central Economic Work Conference held in December 2023 called for nurturing strategic emerging industries including the low-altitude economy.
Lu said that the Chinese government is actively fostering the growth of the low-altitude economy and has implemented a series of regulations, such as a provisional regulation involving the management of unmanned aerial vehicles, which have contributed to the industry's orderly and systematic development.
"We expect the market size to reach at least 4.5 billion yuan in 2024," Lu said.