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Source: The post is based on the article “China’s fully solar-powered, semi-satellite drone, explained” published in Indian Express on 8th September 2022
What is the News?
China’s first fully solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle named “QIMINGXING 50” has successfully completed its maiden test flight with all onboard systems functioning optimally.
What is QIMINGXING 50?
QIMINGXING 50 or Morning Star-50 is China’s fully solar-powered, semi-satellite drone.
Purpose: It is capable of conducting high-altitude reconnaissance, apart from monitoring forest fires, and providing communication and environment relay.
Features: This drone is powered entirely by solar panels. It can stay airborne for long durations.
It flies above 20-km altitude where there is stable airflow with no clouds. This helps these drones to make maximum use of solar equipment to stay functional for extended durations.
What is the significance of this drone?
Firstly, this drone can operate in near-space – 20 km to 100 km above the Earth’s surface. This makes it capable of carrying out satellite-like functions. If satellite services are not available for, say, time-sensitive operations or in case of wartime disruption, then near-space UAVs can step in to fill the operational gap.
– Note: China already has this capacity, but the Qimingxing-50’s long-endurance provides an added advantage to make this capability available over a longer period.
Secondly, it is cost-effective to build and is also easy to launch and operate.
Thirdly, being entirely powered by clean energy from the Sun, it can help boost China’s capabilities to operate in near-space and over the ocean.