Chinese aerospace engineers have claimed to successfully test the country’s first solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the Caihong (CH) or Rainbow, in January in northwestern China, local media reports.
The enhanced variant of a large-scale solar-powered UAV, the CH-4 conducted a six-day intensive bombing test for the first time under extreme weather conditions including blizzards and darkness last month, said the Beijing Aerospace Propulsion Institute under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) on January 31, Global Times reports.
The new CH drone has a better loading and power supply capability, and due to its multiple mount points design, it can carry a mixture of weapons and can shoot different types of guided missiles under different weather conditions, meeting the standards of a surgical strike, said the CH UAV project team.
According to a report by China Military dated February 1, CH-4 conducted the live-fire test with five types of ammunitions including 50 kg cluster bomb, 50 kg terminal-sensitive projectile, 50 kg satellite-guided bomb, 100 kg laser-guided bomb and 100 kg satellite-guided glided bomb. The results of the test indicate that all of the ammunitions meet the required design standards.
The results of the January live-round test has proven that the new CH UAV has met design and ammunition standards, said the research team, adding that the new technologies on the tested UAV will be applied to the next generation of CH-4C drones in the future.
The CH UAV, with a wingspan of 45 meters and equipped with solar panels, boasts a high cost efficiency as it does not require refueling during long-term missions, said Shi Wen, chief engineer of the project.
The CH UAV will perform as a "quasi-satellite" in the future, and has the ability to supplant some functions of telecommunication satellites in providing data relay services, Xinhua News Agency reported in June 2017.
It is also expected to be used as "an airborne mobile Wi-Fi hub" to provide convenient mobile telecommunication and Internet access for remote areas and islands, saving on the huge construction and maintenance costs involved in traditional communication means.