Thinking Tech

Is China's helicopter drone a spy bot?

Is China's helicopter drone a spy bot?

Posting in Aerospace

China's largest unmanned helicopter has successfully completed its first test flight. Will it become the next military drone?

China's largest unmanned helicopter has successfully completed its first test flight.

On May 7th, the V750 chopper took off and maneuvered for 10 minutes around the Weifang Tianxiang Aerospace Industry's test flight center, before performing a clean landing. The prototype has a maximum load capacity of 80 kg, can travel a distance of 500 kilometers and stay airborne for more than four hours. It has a maximum speed of 161 km per hour and can reach an altitude of 3,000 meters.

While Chinese researchers have developed unmanned helicopters, they've previously been much smaller and were limited to a maximum takeoff weight of about 100 kg. The 757-kilogram V750, with its 80 kg payload capacity, is comparable to the Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout, an autonomous helicopter drone used by the U.S. military for enemy reconnaissance and other support missions.

The V650 can reportedly be equipped with ground monitoring radar, high-resolution camera and, in due can time, might be capable of carrying out similar military operations.

But will it?

Cheng Shenzong, Chairman of the Weifang Tianxiang Aerospace Industry reassures the public that the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be commissioned "for surveillance, search and rescue, and scientific exploration in both military and civilian purposes," a statement reported by the state-run Xinhau News Agency.

But given the nation's recent efforts to amp up its military prowess, it will have its fair share of skeptics.

The MQ-8 Fire Scout:

(via The Chosumnilbo, Xinhau News)

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    Tuan Nguyen

    Contributing Editor

    Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure