China's largest pilotless helicopter, the V750, successfully performed its first test flight at the Weifang Tianxiang Aerospace Industry's test flight center in China's Shandong province. The unmanned drone was first displayed at an international airshow in the city of Zhuhai in November of 2010.
Weighing 757 kg (1,670 lbs) with a maximum load capacity of 80 kg (176 lbs), the V750 was observed performing a series of airborne maneuvers for about 10 minutes at altitudes of up to 25 meters (82 ft). The sleek looking, purple painted chopper then made a three-point landing on the test flight center's tarmac.
The May 7th, 2011 test flight did not seek to confirm some of the V750's other reported attributes, such as a 161 kph (100 mph) top speed, a range radius of 150 km (93.2 mi), and a ceiling of 3,000 meters (9,842.5 ft).
The V750 is the latest and largest unmanned helicopter to be tested by China, though the next largest helicopter drone only weighs about 100 kg.
Larger and more powerful models like the V750 have been expected, as it has been reported that Weifang Tianxiang Aerospace purchased a U.S. aircraft engine company in 2009 as part of a strategic plan to develop and manufacture medium-sized helicopters.
Though it's easy to make comparisons to the infamous General Atomics MQ-1 Predator UAVs used by the USAF and CIA to deadly effect in the War on Terror, the V750's primary purpose is used in “surveillance, search and rescue, and scientific exploration in both military and civilian purposes” according to Cheng Shenzong, Chairman of the Weifang Tianxiang Aerospace Industry Co. Sure Cheng... tell it to Sarah Conner.
That's not to say military deployments are out of the question for the V750, whose load capacity can easily accommodate ground monitoring radar equipment and a high-resolution camera. While essentially pilotless, the V750 can be controlled via remote control from ground-, air- or sea-based human operators.
It can also perform autonomous missions drawing upon uploaded programs stored in its computer memory. Sound familiar? Hasta la vista, baby! (via People's Daily Online and Chosunilbo)