China's development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) has entered a new phase as the technology will allow synchronized operations between UAVs and military aircraft, and carrier-based UAVs are also being developed, Chinese experts said.
The joint operations of manned military aircraft, like fighter jets, and UAVs is the drone's future, Shi Wen, the chief engineer and designer of China's Caihong (CH), or Rainbow UAV series, told a press conference in Beijing on Monday.
"We are making efforts to promote artificial intelligence (AI) for UAVs to allow manned aircraft to co-pilot UAVs," Shi said.
Shi's team is under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), and his team has developed a series of UAVs, including the CH-3, CH-4 and the advanced CH-5, which can now engage in surveillance and attack missions. The CH series of drones is popular among nations along the Belt and Road initiative, especially in some Middle East and African countries, which have a huge demand for weapons.
"On average, every CH-series drone has a flying time of more than 1,200 around the world every year, so we have a huge database to support AI technology research," Shi said.
China is focused on building a powerful navy, and its first domestically built aircraft carrier is preparing for its first sea trial, and the carrier-based UAV is also being developed, Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
"Although the military has not released any information, research into carrier-based UAVs started long ago, and ship-based UAVs on destroyers and frigates have already been used in training," Li said.
Shi told the Global Times that "considerable resources are needed in carrier-based UAV research," so it would be risky to attempt without "government support."
While military applications remains the focus, Shi stressed the importance of the civilian uses of UAVs.
"Companies from China, the US and Europe are major competitors in the UAV market, and the civilian uses of UAVs are a larger share than military uses," he said.
The CH series UAVs can also be used for forest protection, exploration of underground resources, and for monitoring oceans, according to information released at the Monday press conference.
"A new generation CH series UAVs, the CH-X," which is the most advanced achievement in the series, "will be displayed at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai this year," Shi said at the press conference, without elaborating.
Airshow China is held in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province, every two years. This year, it will be held from November 6-11.