China Aviation Law

China’s UAV Helicopter – 中国的无人直升机

China tested an unmanned helicopter this last week. It is claimed to be the largest unmanned helicopter in production. It debuted at the Hainan airshow earlier this year, but this is the first test flight.

On Saturday, the largest unmanned helicopter built in China to date made its first flight in Weifang City of east China’s Shandong Province.  With a max take-off weight of 757kg, it flew from the flight-test center of Weifang Tianxiang Aerospace Industry Co.Ltd, hovering for ten minutes, before performing a few manoeuvres before concluding with a stable landing.


As a private pilot in the US, I have always had a lingering fear of unmanned aircraft. I don't know how effective the UAVs are at seeing other aircraft the sky. Often I am flying in areas where there is neither radar nor ATC coverage. The only thing that is keeping me separated from other aircraft are my two eyeballs. I hope that unmanned operators are staying as vigilant as I am at scanning for traffic, but I think they inherently will be less vigilant.

This thing looks small, but it has the wingspan of a 737. My Cessna 140's wingspan wouldn't even cover half of its length.

First, there is a limited visibility on a UAV. Second, the operator's life is not on the line if he crashes, the operator cannot feel the aircraft and does not gain the heightened awareness that comes from being in the aircraft in lower visibility conditions. Finally, when the link is cut the aircraft there is no way to avoid a collision. UAVs are designed with a failsafe that puts them in a holding patter if their link is cut, however, they still do not have the technology to avoid an aircraft in a failsafe condition.

Fortunately, UAV trials in the United States have been very limited and restricted to areas with little to no aircraft activity. The FAA has been very conservative in allowing trials of UAVs. Nevertheless, there have been instances of state and local police agencies using UAVs without FAA approval.
Near Miss over Kabul

Look at this amazing near miss between a military UAV and a commercial airliner in Afghanistan.

Without the general aviation traffic in China that we see in the united states, there is not nearly as large a risk of collision. But, I hope that the CAAC will limit these trials until the technology has been better tested and tried.


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