Craft would be ca­pa­ble of stay­ing air­borne for a week, de­vel­oper says

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­

China Aero­space Sci­ence and In­dus­try Corp, the na­tion’s largest mis­sile-maker, is de­vel­op­ing a so­lar-pow­ered un­manned air­craft ca­pa­ble of stay­ing in the sky for a week.

The drone, which has yet to be named, will look much like a con­ven­tional fixed­wing plane and will be pro­pelled by an elec­tric mo­tor and so­lar bat­ter­ies. It will be able to op­er­ate for a week at an al­ti­tude of more than 20,000 me­ters, Ma Hongzhong, di­rec­tor of CASIC’s Un­manned Air­craft In­sti­tute, said in an in­ter­view on Thurs­day.

The drone’s wing­span will be about 25 me­ters and its max­i­mum take­off weight will be around 200 kilo­grams, he said, adding that the drone’s first flight will be made soon.

Devel­op­ment started two years ago — a joint ef­fort of Ma’s in­sti­tute and a re­search team from Europe, he said. He de­clined to pro­vide de­tails about the Euro­pean part­ner.

“We are work­ing with the Euro­pean team to de­velop tech­nolo­gies and equip­ment for the plane. Af­ter the devel­op­ment is fin­ished, my in­sti­tute will be re­spon­si­ble for its marketing and sales,” Ma said, adding that the State Oceanic Ad­min­is­tra­tion and

Max­i­mum take­off weight of China’s new so­lar-pow­ered un­manned air­craft

the China Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ad­min­is­tra­tion have agreed to em­ploy the air­craft for mar­itime emer­gency re­sponse and typhoon fore­cast­ing.

In the fu­ture, the drone will also be tasked with re­lay­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion sig­nals and lo­cat­ing min­eral re­sources be­cause of its ex­tended flight en­durance at high al­ti­tude, he said.

Ex­perts said there are no clouds at 20,000 me­ters or higher and the air at that al­ti­tude is sta­ble, so the drone

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