(NewsWeek)– One of China’s top drone engineers says the country’s military drone program has entered a new phase of development as China attempts to close the gap on America’s dominance of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sphere.
Shi Wen—chief engineer and designer of China’s Caihong (CH) drone platform—told a press conference in Beijing that the country is now working on carrier-based drones and systems to allow synchronized operations between UAVs and military aircraft, Global Times reported.
Enabling manned aircraft to co-pilot UAVs would immediately multiply a warplane’s impact and flexibility, enabling the same pilot to direct multiple drones. Shi said China is therefore “making efforts to promote artificial intelligence for UAVs to allow manned aircraft to co-pilot UAVs.”
Shi’s team has already developed five combat and surveillance iterations of the Caihong platform. The latest—CH-5—conducted its first flight in 2015. It can carry up to 24 missiles at a time and has a range of just over 4,000 miles, though future upgrades may extend this to over 6,000 miles. Shi said that the newest generation Caihong, the CH-X, would be displayed at the Airshow China 2018 event in November.