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China's AVIC expands AV500 VTOL UAV family with new high-altitude model

The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has successfully test flown a new variant of its AV500 rotary wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the company announced on 21 May.

AVIC’s China Helicopter Research and Development Institute (CHRDI) stated on the company’s official social media account that a prototype AR500C/AV500C – with serial number AV500C-PT01 clearly shown on its tail boom – completed a 20-minute maiden flight at AVIC’s dedicated UAV research and development (R&D) facility in Poyang county, northeastern Jiangxi Province. The prototype was seen equipped with a chin-mounted dummy electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) sensor turret.

The AR500C/AV500C VTOL UAV can be controlled via a mobile ground control station.

The AR500C/AV500C VTOL UAV can be controlled via a mobile ground control station.

According to AVIC, the AR500C/AV500C is a further development of CHRDI’s AV500B VTOL UAV and has been specifically designed for high-altitude operations. While the company did not disclose detailed specifications of the new air vehicle, the baseline AV500 platform has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 500 kg with an overall length of 7.2 m – inclusive of a 5.7 m-long fuselage and tail section – as well as a height and rotor diameter of 2.4 m and 6.3 m, respectively.

The AR500C/AV500C offers a comparable MTOW with the other members of the AV500 VTOL UAV family – which includes the AV500B and the armed reconnaissance AV500W (the latter of which is also marketed internationally as the U8EW) – but is physically differentiated from the other variants with a composite airframe featuring an aerodynamically optimised fuselage shell and enclosed tail boom. Another key modification is a new three-bladed main rotor as opposed to the twin-rotor configuration adopted for the AV500B and AV500W.

Close-up of the operator’s interface showing digital flight control and UAV health data.
The AR500C/AV500C VTOL UAV seen with a dummy EO/IR payload during its maiden flight on 20 May.

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