Observing Dongguan from the Skies

Rapidly becoming the home of the drone, South China is undoubtedly hot on flying. We spent a day flying to see how our favorite spots in Dongguan from the ground look from 500 meters overhead.


The highly globalized drone industry is in many ways firmly rooted in South China. Dongguan itself is responsible for housing the largest drone factory in the world for Hubsan, the market’s second largest manufacturer. The largest drone producer on earth, DJI, is based in Shenzhen. Guangzhou also houses numerous key producers like XAIRCRAFT and Ehang, who famously hit the scene after designing the world’s first drone large enough to transport people. As Silicone Valley lags spiritlessly behind, the future of drones will be largely dictated by aims and dreams of the workers and designers right here in the PRD.

Apart from a few brand names and the basic impression of some kind of flying plane that either takes photos or kills, most people don’t know much more about the drone market. Perhaps too far off most people’s radar, there exists a simple lack of awareness of the broad utility of the flying vehicles. What they are used for now and how to use them in the future is increasingly limitless.


People’s Park, Guancheng

A certain complexity, or at least faint anxiety, surrounds the implementation, as well. Frankly, nobody is attracted to what they imagine as the government constantly flying overhead taking videos of a wild backyard barbeque or worse. The truth is, in reality, surveillance and military drones make up quite a small part of the overall picture. Far more than flying cameras, innovative technologies are offering staggering new potential for our daily life that will soon become faster, more convenient and cheaper.

Perhaps too far off most people’s radar, there exists a simple lack of awareness of the broad utility of the flying vehicles. What they are used for now and how to use in the future is increasingly limitless.

These vehicles can perform incredibly dangerous tasks like operating in warzones or putting out fires, but also much simpler activities like shipping boxes conveniently and rapidly. Agricultural companies have also begun using drones to help them study their products from above and helping to protect their value by spraying fertilizers and pesticides. Drones help construction companies autonomously and quickly move building supplies from ground to top floors or from site to site. Perhaps most exciting of all, and most likely will become available far off into the future, is personal transport drones. Imagine calling a taxi service and having a flying object about the size of a small car come to effortlessly whisk you off to your next destination.


Hongfu Rd Bridge, Nancheng

Drones are becoming more and more popular in the consumer space as prices drop and tech goes up. People all over the world have begun flying these little machines to capture incredible photos of natural scenery or racing around wide open parks.
In the past decade or so, drones in general have begun to be associated with privacy violations and military activity. To be fair, these things do happen, but like any new technology, creative usage only really comes after people have had plenty of time to play, test and reinvent. The benevolence of the device is really only up to us and how we choose to use it.

Dongjiang River, Wanjiang

Dongjiang River, Wanjiang

Despite all the confusion and controversies surrounding drones, they are here to stay. Luckily for us, we’re smack dab in the middle of the future of the industry. Whatever development happens, most likely we’ll be one of the first to know about it. The importance and significance of this technology will continue to grow rapidly as new concepts are blended into the fold. At this point, only one question remains: how do you plan to fly?


I’m an avid drone enthusiast from California, but have been living in China for more than seven years. I spend my days working in a factory as the Lead Marketer for a drone software company called HyperDrone, but my real passion is for actually using drones. I originally got my feet wet when my dad wanted to purchase one as an entertaining hobby, but it all ended with me finding my calling in life. In the last year, I have worked with several photographers to make stunning time-lapse wedding photos, factory demos and more. My company developed a complex code that we install on most mid-level and above drones to become more automated and feed-in live video for a huge number of exciting reasons. I live near Batou. Come find me at the Treehouse. contact me via WeChat at livinov or email me at livinov@gmail.com and let’s discuss the art of flying.


Triumphantly reborn in 2012, this old village has become one of Dongguan’s most prominent icons and the local pride of Wanjiang. Rows after row of aged, colorful houses now host a variety of renovated restaurants and bars in a tight community. You might feel like you time traveled if it wasn’t for all the neon lights.



0816_coverstory1West Gate. Although vastly rebuilt in a different style than the historic design in 1958, the West Gate is the only structure left of the original four.
0816_coverstory2Guancheng Cultural Square. The Chinese and foreigners alike enjoy squares for their multi-purpose usage and typical opulence. This square also displays the Phoenix Statue.
0816_coverstory3Chinese Overseas Hotel. The supposedly haunted, derelict 28-storey hotel was Dongguan’s first hotel for foreigners. Holding many government-organized conferences during its operation, competition put it out of business in 2005.
0816_coverstory4China Post Tower. The souring headquarters of China Post was once the tallest building in Dongguan, demonstrating a golden period for the state-owned company.
0816_coverstory5Dongguan Canal. The strategic anti-flood project was built by necessity in 1957 by thousands of able-bodied men from around Dongguan.




0816_coverstory1TBA Tower. A useful landmark for the urban sprawl, TBA Tower is Dongguan’s tallest. The complex was entirely built by the Taiwanese Businessmen Association in 2013.
0816_coverstory2Dongguan Exhibition Center. There was once a rumor that the huge structure would be torn down to make space for the Wangfujing shopping mall, but Center remains and the mall never came. Today, most major fairs are held in Houjie.
0816_coverstory3First International Complex. The gigantic collection of offices and stores make up the central commerce of Nancheng.

0816_coverstory4Minyin Group Headquarters. Soon there will be another massive complex in central Nancheng with office buildings, an Intercontinental Hotel and an enormous mall all under the Minyin Group. One of these buildings will soon take the title for Dongguan’s tallest at 398 meters, a whole 100 meters higher than TBA Tower.
0816_coverstory5Central Square. Hosting some of the city’s best museums and cultural facilities, including the Museum of Science and Technology, Exhibition Center, Library, and Yulan Theater. The city’s government building also sits at the top of the square. Really, it’s more than just a square; it’s truly the center of the city’s cultural, political and economic influence.



0816_coverstory1Humen Bridge. A colossal suspension bridge spanning the Shizi Channel, Humen Bridge remains one of the busiest connection points between Dongguan and Guangzhou.
0816_coverstory2Sea Battle Museum. This coastal museum sits just before Humen bridge and is a popular attraction that vividly depicts many significant details about the Opium War in 1840.
0816_coverstory3Weiyuan Battery. A hugely fortified defensive structure built in 1835 and used during various wars throughout history, and especially the Opium War in 1841.
0816_coverstory4Shizi Channel. The upper channel of the mighty Pearl River estuary runs from the mixture of the Dongjiang River and the Pearl River.



0816_coverstory5Mels Weldon Hotel. The tallest building in Humen by far, Mels Weldon is still known by most locals as the old Sofitel building.
0816_coverstory6Huanghe Fashion City. Venture here to find a wholesale market that is rumored to have absolutely everything you seek. Even love.



0816_coverstory1To date, Dongguan’s most successful hi-tech industrial park, housing Chinese corporate giants like Huawei and Vanke.
0816_coverstory2Dongguan University of Technology. The first and largest university in Dongguan moved from Guancheng to the current Songshan Lake campus in 2005.
Taoyuan Park0816_coverstory3. This quaint park was built in honor of a famous poem in which the poet Tao Yuanming described where and how he wanted to live after retiring.



0816_coverstory1New World Garden & 0816_coverstory2Dynatown. Dongcheng’s original gardens are surrounded by an attractive mix of bars and restaurants and remain incredibly popular today.
0816_coverstory3Bar Street. Forming unexpectedly a few years back, Bar Street is the ultimate place to let loose on a weeknight or cruise during weekend nights until the early morning when the last of the stragglers finally head home.
0816_coverstory4Tung Wah Hospital. Proudly established in 1995 as the first private hospital in Dongguan. Tung Wah continues on its path of success by expanding and updating its central location.
0816_coverstory5Dongcheng Cultural Square. Multitudes of citizens can be found relaxing, playing badminton, dancing or roller skating across the open area. Both the Dongcheng Library and Dongguan Children’s Theater can also be found here.



0816_coverstory1Tickets. Buy tickets here to travel all across China.
0816_coverstory2City buses. Grab a ride to get you anywhere you need to go across Dongguan.
0816_coverstory3Regional buses. If you really want to leave, find buses that will take you all over China here.




0816_coverstory1Qifeng Park. The jewel of Dongcheng, residents from all reaches of Dongguan come here to struggle to reach the lantern at the peak. Amazing views await. In Fengshui theory, Qifeng is the land of treasure and is attributed as the source of Dongguan’s prosperity.
Pullman Dongguan Foru0816_coverstory2m. The first Pullman hotel in all of China sits quietly protected by natural walls of lush jungle vegetation.
0816_coverstory3HERE! Dongguan office. Qifeng might be the diamond, but HERE! is the ring that holds it.



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