The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has successfully conducted the maiden flight of a 20 m wingspan technology demonstrator of the Qi Mingxing (Venus) solar-electric long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the company announced on its Wechat social media account on 26 October.
Although AVIC did not disclose details of the date and location of the trial, it claimed that the Venus UAV technology demonstrator – which is being developed by its First Aircraft Institute division – was flown at a cruising altitude that exceeded 20,000 m (65,616 ft).
“Through the development and first flight of the large-size technology demonstrator, we have further mastered the key design, manufacturing, testing, and flight technologies of large-scale solar-powered UAVs,” the company stated.
“Complete scientific design, calculation, and test methods have been established as a result of this trial,” it added. “A large amount of engineering design experience and flight data has been obtained, [laying] a solid foundation for the subsequent development of full-sized UAVs.”
AVIC also revealed that it constructed a 10 m wingspan Venus UAV prototype in 2016, putting it through two years of flight testing to validate its airframe design, structural strength, and aerodynamic performance, as well as electrical power generation and management characteristics. In September 2018, the 10 m prototype performed an autonomous technical flight demonstration that lasted for approximately five hours.
Jane’s previously reported that carbon fibre and composites manufacturer Jiangsu Hengshen was contracted by AVIC to supply a composite structure with all-weather flight capability for the 20 m Venus technology demonstrator, with the main wing structure reportedly featuring a chord length of 1.1 m and a weight of 18.9 kg.
The technology demonstrator is understood to have entered production at the end of 2017 and completed in July 2018.
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