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China’s Rainbow Solar UAV to Make Maiden Flight
China’s aerospace engineers boast the “Caihong” is the world’s largest solar-powered drone, dwarfing NASA’s Pathfinder series that never made it into mass production. The prospect of the drone leading in disaster monitoring is in the horizon.
A large-scale solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), latest in the “Caihong” (rainbow in English) series produced by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA), will make its maiden flight by midyear, China.org.cn has learnt.
The UAV will seek to reach near-space, an altitude above where commercial airliners fly, but below orbiting satellites.
Such a vehicle is commonly referred to as an “atmospheric satellite” in that it can function as a low-orbit satellite to a certain extent. A solar UAV can perform sustained surveillance and information-relay over a region.
It usually features longer hovering time, higher communication capacity and higher image resolution than a usual reconnaissance satellite that can only visit a designated region periodically. Besides, the price of a solar UAV and its launch cost are far lower than a satellite.
The Chinese vehicle has a wingspan of more than 40 meters. It has eight propellers installed on the front of the wings fully covered by solar panels. Its designer, CAAA’s chief UAV engineer Shi Wen, calls it the world’s largest solar-powered drone, even dwarfing the US NASA Pathfinder series that never made it into mass production.
Shi said his UAV is among the world’s top three in terms of its overall performance indicators and technical capabilities.
Super-high service ceiling, super-long endurance and easy maintenance are the three key aspects to ensure solar drones to perform a leading role in such fields as extensive aerial reconnaissance, disaster monitoring and communication relay.
The Chinese vehicle can easily stay airborne for months. “If we don’t consider the life span of the parts, this kind of aerial vehicle could theoretically fly forever,” said its designer.
The challenges in designing a solar drone mainly involve its aerodynamic layout and wing configuration, because there was no established template to follow. Shi said that a higher lift-to-drag ratio, to optimise the drone’s aerodynamic layout, was essential, and this was something the CAAA had built its reputation upon.
CAAA is a subsidiary of the NASA-like China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. Its principal mission is to test the aerodynamic performance of China’s aerial and aerospace vehicles, including rockets, space modules and atmospheric reentry-vehicles of long-range projectiles.
CAAA started to develop the Rainbow drones to break the monopoly of the US drones such as Global Hawk and Reaper in the global arms market. CH-3 and CH-4 are the star products of the Rainbow series. They have already displayed their capabilities in geological and maritime surveillance at home as well as anti-terrorism activities in the Middle East and Africa.
At the International Defense Exhibition (IDEX) 2017 held in Abu Dhabi last month, Saudi Arabia announced it would manufacture certain types of Rainbow UAVs, after inking deals with CAAA. Military insiders claim the CH-4 has a strong possibility for mass manufacture, but no comment was available from CAAA.
2017-04-07New Chinese Drone for Export
China is the largest exporter of military drones today, and it is ready to place a new model on the international market. The TYW-1, developed by Beihang University in Beijing, one of China’s top institutes for science and technology, is an unmanned aircraft for reconnaissance and combat based on the BZK-005 high-altitude, long-range reconnaissance drone, which the university also developed.
2017-04-03China to Open a Drone Factory in Saudi Arabia
China will construct a new facility to produce unmanned aerial vehicles in Saudi Arabia, following a recent visit from Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Salman.
2017-03-30China’s Anti-Drone Gun Tested
Authorities in China have now begun field-testing their latest anti-drone “gun” that is capable of taking down any un-welcomed drone. Police officers in the country were recently armed with the new drone jamming gun at a big soccer game in Wuhan, China. Any drone that trespassed within the event’s premises were disabled and forced to land through the system’s signal jamming capabilities.
2017-03-14China to Introduce Real-Name Drone Registration
The head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has said that the government will introduce new rules to regulate China’s drone industry as unregulated flights have been causing problems.
2016-11-10China’s Turbojet-Powered Cloud Shadow
The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) unveiled the Cloud Shadow, a turbojet-powered, medium/high-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the Airshow China 2016 exposition, which was held in the southern city of Zhuhai from 1 to 6 November.
2016-11-08China Unveils QY-1 Rotary Wing UAV
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has unveiled a new vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) prototype at the Airshow China 2016 exhibition in Zhuhai.
2016-09-13Precise Auto-Follow Consumer UAV
Chinese manufacturer Skye Intelligence, will soon unveil Orbit – a hands-free, social sharing drone.
2016-08-15MMC Opens New State of Art Facility to Meet International Demand
MMC, the Shenzhen based drone manufacturer, has recently opened to a new state of the art production facility in Bao’an Shenzhen, China to help meet demand as a result of unprecedented growth. MMC’s research in hydrogen technology has led to the first ever commercially available hydrogen-fueled drone, the HYDrone 1800 which holds the record for flight time at 4½ hours. This development, apart from generating worldwide attention, has required immediate improvements within MMC production lines.
2016-07-15Chinese Unmanned Helicopter to Redefine Air-logistics
A new Chinese unmanned helicopter might be the industry’s first critical step to a functional aerial logistic platform in the near future. This unmanned helicopter, produced by Ziyan UAV excelled its counterparts by its outstanding performance in load-bearing, safety and speed.
2016-07-14Guizhou Unveils Box-Wing UAV Concept
A new prop-driven, box-wing unmanned aerial vehicle concept has been unveiled by China’s Guizhou Aviation Industry Group (GAIC) at the 7th Vanguard Wings UAV show in Beijing, one of China’s major exhibitions for the rapidly growing sector.
Swarms of Drones Test New Dogfighting Skills
Swarms of Drones Test New Dogfighting Skills
2012-04-05 Hydrogen-powered Fuel Cell Flies ScanEagle