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China releases a solar-powered drone that can launch missiles from ‘near space’

China's CH-5 drone
February 13, 2018
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China’s new solar-powered UAV, the Caihong or “Rainbow,” successfully completed a live-ammunition test under extreme weather conditions last month, the Global Times reported.

The drone, which carried out the test on Jan. 31, was developed by the Beijing Aerospace Propulsion Institute under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

The UAV completed a six-day intensive bombing test in northwestern China under extreme weather conditions.

In June, during a separate test, the drone flew for more than 15 hours at an altitude of 20 kilometers.

According to Chinese state media, the drone can stay in the air for months or even years.

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Near space refers to between 20 kilometers and 100 kilometers, or about 12 to 62 miles, above sea level because the air is so thin that conventional fuel-powered engines struggle to perform.

Because of its multiple mount points design, the drone can carry a variety of weapons, including 50-kilogram cluster bombs and fire-guided missiles under harsh weather conditions, meaning it can carry out surgical strikes from long distances.

Chinese military expert and TV commentator Song Zhongping said this kind of technology would make for a great international market share.

Song said because the UAV can carry such a variety of weapons, it can work well in any type of weather condition.

Besides conducting strikes, the UAV can be used as “an airborne mobile Wi-Fi hub” to provide telecommunication and internet access to remote locations. The drone will supplant some telecommunication satellites in providing data-relaying services, the Global Times reported.

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