Biggest commercial drone yet?

Up until now, the biggest drones on the planet were a preserve of the military, with all their sophisticated gadgetry and firearms and stuff – which makes this just about the only time we will make reference to military drones on this site.

Because now there is a commercial unmanned aerial vehicle to rival any military drone for size.

A Chinese logistics company Shunfeng Express, has just completed its maiden test flight for a cargo drone that has a carrying capacity for 5.25 tonnes. The drone took off from Ningxia in North-West China at eight in the morning on August 21, and landed in inner Mongolia an hour later with minimum fuss, to complete a history flight that could revolutionise the transportation of cargo to rural areas around the world.

“The latest success of the FH-98 test flight has laid a solid foundation and put the drone on a good path towards certification for airworthiness and ultimate induction into full-scale into commercial operations,” and industry insider told local media.

Technically, the Feihong-98 (FH-98) drone’s latest success would be its second reported test flight, as the drone also made another successful take-off and landing at a test site in Baotou in October 2018. Modified from a conventional plane, the Shifei Y5B cargo plane that has been flying in the country since 1957, the FH-98 needs only a maximum of 150metres runway to take of or land. It can carry a cargo payload of 1.5tonnes and has volume enough for 15 cubic metres, with a maximum flight height of 4,500 metres and a flight range of 1,200 kilometres.

It can also reach a top speed of 180km/hour and can fly in cloudy weather too.  

The drone’s manufacturers figure their new product can significantly reduce operating costs for airlines, in terms of aircraft design and operation, while maintain the speed of traditional aeroplanes.

A big player in the Chinese logistics industry, Shunfeng has been exploring the possibility of adding large drones to its logistics fleet since 2012; so committed were they to this concept that they set up a subsidiary, Fengbird Aviation in 2017, with the purpose of integrating intelligent aviation technology into the drone ecosystem, and generally promoting the rapid development of the drone industry.

This saw them developing the FH-98, which received the greenlight for a series of long-range test flights from the Civil Aviation Administration in February this year.


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