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About Qimingxing-50

Context:

China’s first fully solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle has successfully completed its maiden test flight with all onboard systems functioning optimally.
Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Qimingxing-50
  2. Cross between drone and satellite

About Qimingxing-50

  • 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


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