China’s first fully solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle has successfully completed its maiden test flight with all onboard systems functioning optimally.
GS III: Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Qimingxing-50
- Cross between drone and satellite
- With a wingspan of 164-ft, the drone is a large machine powered entirely by solar panels. The high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAV can stay airborne for long durations.
- Named the Qimingxing-50, or Morning Star-50, this drone flies above 20-km altitude where there is stable airflow with no clouds.
- This helps these drones to make the maximum use of solar equipment to stay functional for extended durations.
- Drones like the Morning Star-50 are cost-effective to build and are also easy to launch and operate.
- Being entirely powered by clean energy from the Sun, the present one can help boost China’s capabilities to operate in near-space and over the ocean.
- This HALE UAV is capable of conducting high-altitude reconnaissance, apart from monitoring forest fires, providing communication and environment relay.
Cross between drone and satellite
- The fact that the drone can operate in near-space – 20 km to 100 km above the Earth’s surface – makes it capable of carrying out satellite-like functions.
- If satellite services are not available for, say, time-sensitive operations or in case of wartime disruption, then near-space UAVs can step in to fill the operational gap.
- These drones are also referred to as ‘High Altitude Platform Stations’ or pseudo-satellites.
- China already has this capacity, but the Qimingxing-50’s long-endurance provides an added advantage to make this capability available over a longer period.
-Source: Indian Express