Wednesday, February 22, 2012

China making gains in international UAV Market

Chinese aerospace industry’s advance on the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) sector appears to be gaining momentum. On Dec. 31, 2011, Chinese publication Jinyang Yangcheng Evening News reported that the South China University of Technology has developed its “first unmanned maritime surveillance helicopter” under contract from Guangdong Province and China’s Marine Surveillance Corps. The report claimed that the rotorcraft is already operational and can take off and land vertically using both land and seaborne platforms and perform coast patrol and sea observation missions. The UAV reportedly has a maximum level speed of 49 knots, but normally cruises at 27 knots.

Although the Chinese industry has long been experimenting with unmanned helicopters, it does not seem to have won any orders from local customers until very recently. Evidently, the companies concerned had been starting to wonder whether there really was a viable business model for these programs.

Dozens of new UAV designs were exhibited at Airshow China 2010 in Zhuhai and then at Aviation Expo 2011 in Beijing in September 2011. The Beijing show featured no fewer than six unmanned helicopters–some were mockups but some were fully operational examples. The exhibitors also published details of many other UAV programs that they have in the works.

Obviously, commissioning of the maritime surveillance unmanned helicopter marks a next step in Chinese UAV development and is the result of about 10 years of concerted research-and-development work.

A decade earlier at the Aviation Expo in Beijing, the Chinese industry had displayed a rotary-powered UAV designed for crop-spraying, designated the CHU. It looked similar to the design now developed for Guangdong and seems to have been inspired by Japan’s Yamaha RMAX model. Since 1983, more than 1,600 examples of this type have been built for agricultural applications, notably spraying of chemicals. The Yamaha can lift a 66-pound payload and loiter for 90 minutes within a six-mile radius, with its performance being similar to those given for its Chinese clones.

The CHU was developed by Avic’s China Helicopter Research and Development Institute (CHRDI). In September 2011 the CHRDI exhibited a newer design that resembled another Aviation Expo 2011 exhibit, the Z-5 from the 60th Research Institute of Central Staff Dept. of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Its streamlined design features a classic helicopter layout with a main rotor and an anti-torque propeller on the tail.

The aircraft, weighing 992 pounds, can develop climb rates up to 135 to 164 feet per second, has a 11,483-foot ceiling, a range of up to 54 nautical miles and loitering capability of three to six hours. It can carry payload of 130 to 220 pounds.

Photos and videos available at the Beijing event showed the Z-5-lookalike UAV flying. Images on the stand of the PLA’s Institute showed half-a-dozen UAVs that the establishment is working on, including the Z-3 and the W-60 UH, as well as the W-50, S-200 and the S-300 “airplane-like” vehicles. At the same time, it is also developing a family of “CYS” series compact engines.

Meanwhile, also working in the same field is the Third Academy of China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp. (COSIC). As with the CHRDI, some of its designs look similar to those on the PLA’s Institute stand, albeit carrying different designations. For instance, the S300 looks like the WJ-600. Among other things, COSIC is developing its CTJ series of engines for both UAVs and cruise missiles.

In addition to the three core government-backed groups, a number of private and mixed-capital enterprises also are trying their luck in the UAV market. From its base in Hunan, Sunward Technology Co. Ltd. is working on the SVU200 compact helicopter, dubbed the Flying Tiger. It features classic layout with a main rotor and tail rotor, and looks like a scale model of Russia’s first mass-produced helicopter, the Mi-1, from the 1950s.

Another newcomer displayed in Beijing last September was the M28 from This is an unmanned helicopter with a coaxial rotor system, resembling Kamov’s experimental Ka-37 helicopter.

Another exhibitor, BVE, demonstrated the BL-60 UAV, dubbed the [U]FCopter. This appears to be another derivative of both the RMAX and CHU aircraft. A similar design was exhibited at Airshow China 2010 in the form of SIA’s ServoHeli-120. This vehicle is classed as an autonomous rotorcraft UAV and is pitched at applications including surveillance, detailed reconnaissance, experimental platform and load dropping.

The ServoHeli-102 has a maximum takeoff weight of 265 pounds including an 88-pound payload. It can achieve a maximum level speed of 65 knots and cruise at 51 knots for around 90 minutes.

For the time being at least, China’s unmanned helicopters appear to be of a significantly lower quality than Western models such as the RQ-16 T-Hawk micro air vehicle developed by Honeywell and DARPA in the U.S. However, there is no doubting the competitive spirit of companies in this field.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

China unveils highest resolution global moon map

More contribution from China to world scientific community.

China Publishes High Resolution Full Moon map from Chang'e-2 Lunar Orbiter Chinese scientists assembled a global Moon map using images captured by the Chang’e-2 spacecraft with an unprecedented resolution of 7-meters.

Chinese scientists have assembled the highest resolution map ever created of the entire Moon and unveiled a series of global Moon images on Monday, Feb. 6.

The composite Lunar maps were created from over 700 individual images captured by China’s Chang’e-2 spacecraft and released by the country’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND), according to reports from the state run Xinhua and CCTV new agencies.

“The map and images are the highest-resolution photos of the entirety of the Moon’s surface to be published thus far,” said Liu Dongkui, deputy chief commander of China’s lunar probe project, reports Xinhua.

Of course there are much higher resolution photos of numerous individual locations on the Moon taken from orbit by the spacecraft of other countries and from the surface by NASA’s Apollo lunar landing astronauts as well as unmanned Russian & American lunar landers and rovers.

Chang’e-2 is China’s second lunar probe and achieved orbit around our nearest neighbor in space in October 2010. It was launched on Oct. 1, 2010 and is named after a legendary Chinese moon goddess.

The images were snapped between October 2010 and May 2011 using a charge-coupled device (CCD) stereo camera as the spacecraft flew overhead in a highly elliptical orbit ranging from 15 km to 100 km altitude.

In fact the maps are detailed enough that Chinese scientists were able to detect traces of the Apollo landers, said Yan Jun, chief application scientist for China’s lunar exploration project.

Chang’e-2 also captured high resolution photos of the “Sinus Iridum”area , or Bay of Rainbows, where China may land their next Moon mission. The camera had the ability to resolve features as small as 1 meter across at the lowest altitude.

The satellite left lunar orbit in June 2011 and is currently orbiting the moon’s second Lagrange Point (L2), located more than 1.5 million km away from Earth.

Chinese space program officials hope for a 2013 liftoff of the Chang’e-3 lunar rover, on what would be China’s first ever landing on another celestial body. China’s next step beyond the rover may be to attempt a lunar sample return mission in 2017.

Demonstrating the ability to successfully conduct an unmanned lunar landing is a key milestone that must be achieved before China can land astronauts on the Moon, perhaps within the next decade.

NASA’s twin GRAIL spacecraft recently achieved Lunar orbit over the New Year’s weekend. The duo of probes were just renamed as “Ebb and Flow” – the winning entries in an essay naming contest submitted by 4th Grade US students from Bozeman, Montana.

At this time NASA does not have the funding or an approved robotic lunar landing mission, due to severe budget cuts.And even worse NASA cuts will be announced shortly!

Russia hopes to send the Lunar Glob spacecraft to land on the Moon around 2015.

Since the United States has unilaterally scuttled its plans to return American astronauts to the Moon’s surface, it’s very possible that the next flag planted on the Moon by humans will be Chinese.