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The Aerospace Information Research Institute (AIR) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) was established in July 2017, as a result of consolidating three CAS institutes: the Institute of Electronics (IECAS), the Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth (RADI), and the Academy of Opto-Electronics (AOE). The merger highlights CAS efforts towards reformation of its R&D system to meet future S&T challenges.

IECAS was founded in 1956 as China’s first comprehensive research institute in the fields of electronics, information science and technology;  RADI was established in 2012 through merging two former CAS institutes: the Institute of Remote Sensing Applications (IRSA), which was founded in 1979, and the Center for Earth Observation and Digital Earth that was founded in 2007; AOE was established in 2003, serving as CAS research center in satellite navigation, aerostat system R&D , as well as administration headquarter of CAS for the overall management in the above fields.

AIR has nearly 4,000 employees as of March 2023, including five CAS academicians, over 300 full professors and professorate senior engineers, over 600 associate researchers and senior engineers. It also hosts UCAS School of Electronics, Electrical and Communication Engineering, and UCAS School of Opto-electronics, training over 1800 postgraduate and doctoral students.

AIR houses 21 national-level / CAS-level key laboratories, centers, and unincorporated units. AIR aspires to achieve major scientific breakthroughs and take the lead in constructing a national laboratory in the field of aerospace information by pooling research advantages inherited from its former institutes and in line with major national needs. 

AIR has developed an international S&T cooperation platform which consists of the International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE), the International Centre on Space Technologies for Natural and Cultural Heritage (HIST) under the auspices of UNESCO, the International Programme Office for Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR IPO) and the CAS-TWAS Centre of Excellence on Space Technology for Disaster Mitigation (SDIM).

The academic societies housed by AIR include China Remote Sensing Committee, Electronic Circuit and System Committee of Chinese Institute of Electronics, Science and Technology Committee of China Association for Quality, Association on Environmental Remote Sensing of China, Committee of Environmental Information Systems and Remote sensing under the Chinese Society for Environmental Sciences, Special Committee for Remote Sensing Image Processing, China Society of Image and Graphics. AIR also houses three committees with the mandate to define national standards for remote sensing technologies, optical-electronic measurement, and to perform quality check for laser devices.

AIR publishes English academic journals including International Journal of Digital Earth, Microsystems & Nanoengineering, Big Earth Data, Satellite Navigation, and Journal of Remote Sensing.

As a research institute that integrates both research and higher education, AIR is committed to training talented scientists for the country and building its UCAS schools into top ranking schools in the fields of aerospace information and Opto-Electronics.