China’s Near-space Solar UAV Has Completed Multiple Autonomous Flight Verification

On March 19, reporters learned from the 3rd Academy of China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp that its Flying Cloud Project had reached its phased objectives, and the key project -- the near-space solar UAV -- had successfully completed autonomous flight verification for many times.

As one of the “Five Clouds One Vehicle” projects (including Flying Cloud, Swift Cloud, Drifting Cloud, Rainbow Cloud, Soaring Cloud and Aerotrain) which are vigorously promoted by China’s Space Science & Industry Crop for development of commercial spaceflight, the Flying Cloud Project proposed by the 3rd Academy of China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp aims to build airborne LAN based on near-space solar UAV and it can fulfill emergency communication support for more than a week. The near-space solar UAV is a new type of platform which is powered by solar energy and can fly continuously for days or even months in the adjacent space. It is characterized by high flying altitude, long endurance as well as easy convenient application and maintenance. In a certain sense it has “quasi-satellite” features and has been hot in current international research.

Researchers of the 3rd Academy of China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp told us that by using the solar drones equipped with airborne LAN communication equipment, the Flying Cloud Project can provide much greater network coverage than base stations on the ground and adjoint network access without regional restrictions to fulfill the interconnection of user information within the region and provide transmission links for business data including user’s IP data, voice and video. It can also provide effective communication network coverage solution to areas where base stations are difficult to be set up, such like remote mountain areas and small reefs, and at the same time, it is able to rapidly restore communications in areas under natural disasters where communication facilities are damaged. Besides, UAV covering different areas can further achieve a wider range of network and communication coverage via a relay link forming inter-machine information interaction.

The near-space solar UAV developed by the Corp adopts the medium span conventional configuration and its main technical features include: to reduce difficulty of UAV flight control while achieving high lift-drag ratio aerodynamic performance, and at the same time, to improve its maintenance performance. The ultra-light high-strength composite material body structure is adopted to improve wind resistance and environmental adaptability of the UAV. The high efficiency energy power system and high-redundancy reliable airborne equipment are adopted to greatly improve mission reliability of the UAV during long flight. Due to the matching coordinating design for each subsystem, the solar UAV can be extensively applied in many fields such like communication support, remote sensing, surveying and mapping as well as meteorological sounding and has a broad application prospect by virtue of its advantages such as high flying altitude and long endurance.

Zhang Hongwen -- a researcher of the 3rd Academy of China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp said that based on solar UAV test flights and load application demonstration system tests, they would try to improve system maturity and system deployment to lay a good foundation for the overall layout of Flying Cloud Project.