This post is also available in: heעברית (Hebrew)

Forest surveillance in northeast China is the latest mission to add to the list of civil tasks conducted by drones in the Rainbow series, which has gained fame in overseas anti-terror operations. CH-4 UAV alone has been exported to 10 countries. The CH-4 will officially enter service to monitor forest fires in northeast China, following a deal inked between the regional forestry authority and the drone’s manufacturer in Beijing.

The deployment of the drone also known as an “eye in the sky” will enhance fire monitoring in China’s Greater Khingan Mountains, a task formerly undertaken by forest keepers’ visual observation from fixed look-out posts and, occasionally, from manned aircraft, according to china.org.

Wang Hongbin, deputy chief of the Greater Khingan Forestry Authority, said: “Human eyes cannot see through fog in case there is a fire, and our [manned] aircraft aren’t cleared for nighttime aviation.” By contrast, the CH-4 is equipped with both visual and infrared sensors to allow it to see day and night and, more importantly, through fog. In particular, the CH-4 is installed with near-infrared sensors that allow it to see through dense smoke and pinpoint the source of a fire.

Public data show that in normal operations, a CH-4 can stay airborne for more than 30 hours at an altitude of 4,000-5,000 meters. In other words, one sortie can provide constant aerial surveillance for almost two days during which the drone’s ground staff can take a rest in shifts.

The burden is eased for ground staff in that the pilots are only responsible for the flight while the task of detecting fires is left to the various sensors in the drone’s payload.

Civil or military agencies in the world are interested in Rainbow UAVs’ capability in aerial surveillance, geological exploration, regional communication restoration and fire control.