China’s largest solar powered unmanned plane flies at 65,000ft; can stay in air for months
China has unveiled a solar-powered unmanned plane which has the capability to stay in the air for months. The sun-powered unmanned plane has reached a height of 65,000ft in altitude during a test flight, according to reports. The plane is known as the Caihong or Rainbow and has been developed by China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA). The plane has an astonishing wingspan of over 40 meters wider than that of a Boeing 737 passenger aircraft, reports say. The drone can cruise at a speed of 150 to 200 km per hour. Its maintenance is easy and simple, state-run Xinhua news agency said.
The test flight was kept a top secret, and the plane is being touted as the second largest solar-powered drone in the world. This information was revealed by chief engineer of CAAA drone project Shi Wen, according to PTI. The drone is beaten only by a model by NASA and its performance index and technological capacity are among the most advanced in the world, Shi was quoted as saying by the agency. The US and the UK also have solar-powered drones capable of flying at 65,000ft in their arsenal. China is likely to sell the design to other countries, as per reports. The unmanned aerial vehicle will be used mostly for airborne early warning, aerial reconnaissance, disaster monitoring, meteorological observation and communications relay, the report says.
Notably, in 2015 the world’s first solar-powered aircraft ‘Solar Impulse-2’ had made stopovers in Ahmedabad and Varanasi. Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard and his co-pilot Borschbergh had flown the no fuel, purely sun-powered aircraft. Solar Impulse 2 is a lightweight aircraft with the wingspan of a Boeing 747. It is entirely powered by sunlight through 17,000 solar cells built into its carbon fibre wings, with no fuel or polluting emissions. In July last, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had congratulated the pilot of the Solar Impulse 2 as the solar-powered aircraft completed its epic journey around-the-world spanning over 40,000 kms, saying it was a historic day for humanity.