City of drones building a high-flying business

A drone made by Shenzhen Smartdrone UAV carries wine in a cup.

SHENZHEN, China - In the late afternoon on a day in late May, I heard a grating "buzz buzz buzz" sound among the high-rises in the business district in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, in southern China. I looked up to catch a sight of a drone that was flying about, blaring bizarre electronic sounds in the darkening sky.

As I watched, it dived and zoomed, then hovered above me. The movement was eerie and a bit menacing. Then I noticed several more drones buzzing around nearby. The drones with their ominous-looking black fuselages belonged to DJI, the Guangdong-based leading drone maker, which produces roughly 60 per cent of world output of the flying machines. Engineers were test-flying their latest models as I was about to enter their office building.

First-time visitors to Shenzhen may be jolted to see the machines buzzing around, but they are already part of everyday life for residents there.

DJI's offices are housed in a high-rise building in central Shenzhen. Stepping onto the 14th floor, you enter the brave new world of the drone maker.

Almost everything in the office, including walls, furniture and floors, is white. In the exhibition space, the Phantom, the company's mainstay drone, and a wide range of other products are displayed.

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