UAVs turn to development, environment projects
China's success in producing and exporting unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for military use is prompting the industry to explore new civilian uses, which will help develop the domestic economy and tap overseas market, experts said.
"Our products are very popular in the Belt and Road countries in the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa and so on," Shi Wen, general designer of the Rainbow UAV series (CH series), told the Global Times.
Produced by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), the CH series is its most popular drone product.
Shi declined to identify the buyers, citing business confidentiality.
However, according to official sources from other countries, Rainbow at least has 19 buyers around the world, including Egypt, Myanmar, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. Since 2015, the Iraqi defense ministry's YouTube channel has posted a number of videos about the use of the CH-4B, a military drone of the Rainbow series. These clips show how effective the drones are in real combat situations, such as destroying moving armed vehicles or buildings used by armed terrorists as hideouts.
The fast development of China's UAVs relies on development in areas like aircraft engines, satellite navigation (Beidou system) and micro electronics, Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military expert told the Global Times.
Chinese drones have not had the same poor publicity as US military drones. Shi said Rainbow series drones "have destroyed more than 300 targets in combat in these regions, and the strike rate is 99 percent, which is remarkable."
But Chinese companies are also exploring other markets where drones can make a big impact on development, which will help improve the image of the technology, as most people only know about military drones, experts said.
"Since China has very complicated conditions, if our UAVs work well here, we can use this experience to help other countries as well. And this is much more meaningful than military uses," Song stressed.
Zhou Nai'en, associate director of CASC's design department at its research institute, said that drones can be used for forest protection, exploration of underground resources, and for ocean monitoring.
"For instance, China's territory is vast and has some of the most difficult natural and geographic conditions in the word. And in many cases, if we use manpower to discover natural resources, it would be very difficult and costly due to the harsh natural environment. It's also dangerous sometimes, but using drones can make many 'impossible missions' possible," Zhou said.
The newest CH-5 drone can carry high-tech exploration devices that can detect underground mines.
It flies over no-go areas and detects mines using surface reflections, saving a lot of time and money, he said.
By Yang Sheng Source: Global Times Published: 2017/2/7