China’s AR-500C Unmanned Surveillance Helicopter Completes High Altitude Test in Tibet

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China on Sunday successfully tested its AR-500C Unmanned Helicopter in Tibet completing its most important high altitude test amidst the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA)’s stand- off with Indian troops.

Several images and a video of the drone and the test team taken form mountainous locations were published on the Weibo account of the PLA.

The successful completion of its test will mean deployment could be close adding additional punch to the PLA’s drone capabilities.

The AR-500C is the only drone in the PLA’s arsenal capable of taking off from an elevation of 5,000 meters and has a flight ceiling of 6,700 meters. It has an endurance of five hours, maximum speed of 170 kilometers an hour with a maximum takeoff weight of 500 kilograms.

While its main missions are reconnaissance and communication relay, but when equipped with additional devices, it can also run electronic attack, target indication, fire strike, cargo delivery and nuclear radiation and chemical contamination reconnaissance, according to an AVIC statement.

This allows it to host a variety of payloads such as signal intelligence, signal relay, electronic and image/video surveillance besides electronic warfare equipment.

Developed by Aviation Industries Corporation of China (AVIC), The AR-500C marked its maiden flight only in May this year and was designed for military and civilian surveillance missions.

The drone is equipped with specially designed rotors and a powerful engine that can withstand long flights at high altitude amidst reduced air pressure.

The AR-500C could be paired with the AV500W, guiding the armed reconnaissance which has already been declared  combat ready.  The AV500W can carry a 175-kilogram payload and fly at a maximum speed of 170 kilometers an hour carrying laser-guided missiles or machine guns.

Meanwhile, Chinese media reported:

The AR-500C is expected to join missions in the high-altitude China-India border region including logistics support and armed reconnaissance amid tensions, Chinese media said on Monday.

The AR-500C prototype completed its first plateau flight at the Daocheng Yading Airport, which is the world’s highest civilian airport with an elevation of 4,411 meters, the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC), the aircraft’s developer, said in a statement on Monday.

This flight broke the record for the elevation at which a domestically built unmanned helicopter took off and landed. During the 15-minute flight, the drone completed a series of tests including climbing, hovering, rotating and other operations maneuvers, before steadily landing, AVIC said.

This demonstrated the AR-500C’s general ability to fly in all types of terrain, showing that its development has made significant progress, the company said.

The Sunday’s test flight showed that the AR-500C can carry a payload of 80 kilograms and fly for more than five hours at an altitude of 4,411 meters. This means that in a plateau rescue mission, with only one flight, it can deliver life-saving food for one day to more than 30 people, Zeng Guogui, the chief designer of the aircraft, was quoted by news website as saying on Sunday.