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China is pursuing a solar-electric, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) development program called Qi Mingxing (Venus). According to a report by the Chinese aviation news portal CAN News in late July, the First Aircraft Institute of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has partnered with carbon fiber and composites manufacturer Jiangsu Hengshen to complete assembly of a prototype.
The 20 m wingspan prototype is understood to have entered production at the end of 2017 and completed recently. It also reportedly features a composite structure with all-weather flight capability, with the main wing structure having a chord length of 1.1 m and a weight of 18.9 kg, according to janes.com.
The company is expected to begin ground-based electrical and mechanical testing in anticipation of its maiden flight.
Official details of the Venus development remain unknown, although a conceptual model of the envisioned final product – an air vehicle with a wingspan of 50 m and an overall fuselage length of 21 m – was shown at Airshow China 2016. According to company-supplied specifications, the air vehicle will be propelled by four electric tractor motors that draw power from fuel cells that are recharged via solar cells covering the upper section of the entire fuselage and wing, providing a projected cruising speed of 100–125 km/h and endurance of more than 30 days.
Another organization, the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA) – a subsidiary of defense prime China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) – is also pursuing an unmanned solar-electric platform under the development name of the Cai Hong (CH) Solar UAV.