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China repurposes commercial UAVs for military resupply missions

The PLA Ground Force has repurposed a commercial UAV to support emergency logistics operations including dropping ammunition to soldiers during combat. (Janes)

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has been modifying and using commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to support its logistics operations.

Video footage broadcast by state-owned China Central Television (CCTV) in early July shows the PLA Ground Force's (PLAGF's) 83rd Group Army using a repurposed commercial vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) quadcopter during a combat exercise to drop ammunitions to soldiers in a simulated battlefield environment.

Janes analysis showed that the UAV is also available for sale on a Chinese e-commerce platform. The platform indicates the UAV was built for agricultural spraying by a company based in the Jiangsu province.

The 83rd Group Army has installed a makeshift storage compartment – likely made of carbon fibre – below the central module of the UAV. The flaps at the bottom of the compartment open to drop supplies to deployed troops.

In the video footage, the UAV can be seen possibly dropping 7.62 mm calibre ammunitions for assault rifles used by the 83rd Group Army soldiers. Later on in the footage, the soldiers demonstrate loading the ammunitions into the payload compartment through a hatch on its side.

Janes analysis of the video indicates the UAV could weigh between 20 and 40 kg, have a width of about 1.5 m, and a maximum speed of 70 km/h.

The UAV has stable altitude correction settings and can transmit data to soldiers in real time. It can be operated using remote control or waypoint navigation from ground control stations.

The PLA has been increasingly leveraging commercial platforms to strengthen its operations as part of Beijing's ‘Military-Civil Fusion' (MCF) development strategy.

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