China Electronics Technology Group Corp has built the world"s first early-warning drone, which it calls a "flying radar".
The unpiloted plane, the JY-300, developed and made by the State-owned defense conglomerate"s 38th Research Institute, has radars on its airframe capable of longtime, long-range surveillance of aircraft and ships, said Rong Haichun, a senior designer with the institute, which is based in Hefei, Anhui province.
"The JY-300 is the world"s first unmanned aircraft that integrates radars with airframe, which means radar antennae are part of the craft"s skin," Rong told China Daily by phone on Friday from the sidelines of the ongoing 12th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province.
The drone features easy control and maintenance, high reliability and long service life. It is suitable for reconnaissance and monitoring of helicopters, ships and even anti-ship missiles, the designer said, adding that it can make autonomous takeoffs, flights and landings.
The drone can be mounted with sea-target detection radar, synthetic aperture radar and optical and electronic surveillance apparatus, according to Rong.
The JY-300 has an operational range of more than 1,000 kilometers, a flight altitude of about 5 km and can detect fighter jets from around 50 km away, sources from the institute said. They said engineers will continue to upgrade the model to extend its flight range and altitude and also make it capable of detecting stealth aircraft.
Wu Peixin, an editor at Aerospace Knowledge, said other military drones are able to monitor and track ground targets but cannot detect aircraft or ships, so they are not fit for early-warning operations. The JY-300 is characterized by its low production and operational costs and long flight time, and therefore can be deployed on a large scale along with a naval task group in oceangoing missions, he said.
Such a craft will enable users to improve their capability for detecting and tracking low-flying targets on the sea, thus enhancing their fleets" safety, Wu said.
He suggested that countries that want to field aerial early-warning systems but cannot afford manned early-warning aircraft could consider the JY-300.
Before the JY-300, China Electronics Technology Group, the Chinese military"s largest contractor of radar systems, brought a host of early-warning systems to the international market, including the Silk Road Eye early-warning plane. The plane features a new type of active phased array technology that other types in the market do not have, making it very competitive, the company said.