China to fly space-based, solar-powered telecom drones

Updated 2017-07-25 16:42:12 Global Times

China is planning to build a space-based and solar-powered drone telecommunications network that is capable of guaranteeing weeklong emergency liaison on the ground.

China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp (CASIC) is currently researching and developing the space-based telecommunications project, called "Feiyun" in Chinese, which means "flying cloud," the Science & Technology Daily reported Tuesday. The project will be based in near space, borne by unmanned drone and powered by solar energy.

The network is expected to be tested later this year, the newspaper reported.

The near space area, which lies 20- to 100- kilometers above sea level, contains fairly thin air which would inhibit normal functioning of traditional fuel-powered aircraft engines.

Ma Hongzhong, an official from CASIC told the Science and Technology Daily that unmanned drone can reach an altitude of over 20 kilometers in the near space, and it can fly for days - similar to a telecommunications satellite - and can also carry out missions of remote sensing and relay telecommunications signals.

Ma said that in comparison with low-orbiting satellites, the high-flying drones are easy to maintain and control, and has better cost-effective performance. It also is superior in providing high-resolution data compared with high-orbiting satellites

In June, China's first solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the Caihong (rainbow) completed its first successful near-space test flight at an altitude of more than 20 kilometers.

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