Africa Aerospace & Defence 2018

Chinese unmanned expertise on show [AAD18D2]

20 September 2018

Exhibited under the banner of CATIC (China National Aero- Technology Import and Export Organisation, Hangar 2, Stand CW17) are a variety of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designs from several Chinese design houses and companies. The vehicles cover a range of sizes and performance capabilities up to the medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) weapons-capable Wing Loong I.

Perhaps the most eye-catching of the designs is the V330 from the Shenzhen Smart Drone company, which claims its product is the world's first fixed-wing tilt-rotor UAV. The electric-powered vehicle comprises a traditional fuselage/ wing arrangement with a butterfly tail, but sports pairs of rotor blades on outriggers fore and aft of the wing. The rear pair are fixed in the vertical lift position, while the front pair rotate through 90° to provide vertical take-off/landing capability in conjunction with the aft rotors, or forward thrust for wingborne flight.

The V330 is intended for various applications, including defence and security tasks. The drone can be used for pipeline/powerline inspection, and for mapping. It is also being touted for the logistics delivery role. The V330 on display is fitted with a thermal imager/ laser turret, with an oblique camera option. Payload is stated as 5kg, with an endurance of between 60 and 90 minutes.

Another innovative system is the A-Hawk II large quad-copter, of which a quarter-scale model is on display. The oil-powered UAV has a maximum take-off weight of 450kg, and can carry a 120kg payload that reportedly includes weapons.

Two rotary-wing systems on show are the CAIC (Changhe Aviation Industries Corporation) U8EA, a 500kg class reconnaissance helicopter that has a 60kg payload, and the Ziyan Blowfish I electric-powered helicopter with a 12kg payload that can include small weapons. Completing the line-up is a small model of Chengdu's Wing Loong I.

This Predator-style UAV has been sold to a number of operators, notably Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with whom it has seen action in the Yemeni conflict.

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