China has successfully tested the world's largest commercial drone developed and manufactured by the China Academy of Aerospace Electronics Technology (CAAET) made its first successful test flight at Baotou Airport in North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region on Tuesday, reported Ecns.cn, the official English-language website of China News Service.
SF Express Co., Ltd, a Chinese transport company based in Shenzen, conducted the first public test flight on Oct. 16 with the new delivery drone, named Feihong-98, in cooperation with CAAET.
Feihong-98 is a Chinese copy of the Soviet Antonov An-2, which is China's first domestically-built transport aircraft, the Shiefei Y-5B has a 60-year history since its first flight in 1957.
According to Liu Meixuan, president of CAAET, the FH-98 is now the most affordable and advanced transport drone in the world.
The plane has a maximum weight of 5.25 tons, with a payload of 1.5 tons, and a volume space of 15 cubic meters. It can reach a max flight altitude of 15,000 ft. while cruising at 112mph.
SF Express and CAAET signed an exclusive agreement in 2017, with the intentions of operating a large-scale drone delivery fleet in the next several years.
Pandaily said it took about eight months for researchers to apply the technologies and complete the research and development of core technologies that converted the plane into a fully autonomous drone.
Feihong-98 completed its first flight test in August. It received an operational approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China and should finish up testing by June 2019.
With a takeoff and landing distance of roughly 500 ft., the FH-98 could be the most affordable transport drone for world governments, in need for a low-cost solution to handle emergency and disaster relief missions, and or just a cheap option to transport goods.
In the last twenty years, China has emerged as one of Washington's top competitors in the global drone market. China is offering affordable drone technology, that has been rapidly gaining global market share.
China manufactures several types of drones. The Caihong 5 (CH-5) Rainbow, its newest multi-role capable drone, has seen increased activity in the Middle East -- especially the Yemeni Civil War. The CH-5 competes with the American Reaper and Israeli Heron TP.
China is a major exporter of multi-role strike capable drones. Between 2008 and 2017, China exported a total of 88 drones to eleven different countries.
Regarding total drone sales, however, China lags the US (as shown above). Since the financial crisis to 2017, the US has sold 351 drones to numerous countries, followed by Israel's 168 drone export.
China's drone exports have greatly benefited from American export controls. The US has historically slapped some countries with weapon bans, which has allowed China to fill the void. If countries cannot buy arms from US defense companies, they usually resort to China. With a wide variety of drones, and now the addition of the world's largest transport drone, it seems China is threatening Washington's global drone market share -- a move that does not sit well with America's military-industrial complex.