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China’s solar-powered, semi-satellite drone

  • Published
    9th Sep, 2022
Context

China’s first fully solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle has successfully completed its maiden test flight with all on-board systems functioning optimally.

About

About the new machine

  • The drone is a large machine powered entirely by solar panels.
  • It has a wingspan of 164-ft.
  • The high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAV can stay airborne for long durations.
  • It is named as the Qimingxing-50, or Morning Star-5.
  • This drone flies above 20-km altitude where there is stable airflow with no clouds.
  • This helps these drones to make the maximum use of solar equipment to stay functional for extended durations.
  • In fact, the drone’s chief designer told South China Morning Post that it can operate without a break for months, even years.
  • It is capable of carrying out satellite-like functions.
  • If satellite services are not available for, say, time-sensitive operations or in case of wartime disruption, then near-space UAVs can step in to fill the operational gap.
  • These drones are also referred to as ‘High Altitude Platform Stations’ or pseudo-satellites.
  • China already has this capacity, but the Qimingxing-50’s long-endurance provides an added advantage to make this capability available over a longer period.

    Do You Know?

    In July 2022, the US Army helped test a solar-powered, near-space Airbus Zephyr S drone that set a new record by being airborne for 42 days.
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