China’s solar-powered, semi-satellite drone
Science & Technology
9th Sep, 2022
China’s first fully solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle has successfully completed its maiden test flight with all on-board systems functioning optimally.
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.