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China unveils tube-launched drone with breakthrough flight performance


Nov 4, 2011
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China unveils tube-launched drone with breakthrough flight performance
By Liu Xuanzun
Published: May 28, 2023 10:29 PM

A Peregrine tube-launched folding-wing drone carries out a ground-based launch. Photo: Screenshot from the WeChat account of China's Northwestern Polytechnical University

China recently unveiled a type of tube-launched suicide drone that has a breakthrough flight performance and can be carried by ground and maritime platforms, providing enhanced stealth and flexibility in missions, experts said on Sunday.

The Peregrine tube-launched long-endurance folding-wing drone, developed by a team led by Chang Min at Northwestern Polytechnical University in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, successfully carried out a test recently, the university announced in a press release.

As a new type of loitering precision guided weapon that has became popular in recent years, the tube-launched folding-wing drone uses an integrated storage, transport and launch system that provides portability and flexibility, but this characteristic also restricts the size of the wings of the drone, negatively impacting its aerodynamic performance, the university said.

The international mainstream technology is to fold the wings once, but this design has seen its limits, according to the team's research.

To break this threshold, Chang's team used the design technology of a large aspect ratio with aerodynamic and structural integration, which sees the wings be folded twice in the tube rather than once, providing a significantly higher lift-drag ratio while maintaining structural integrity, which boosted the aerodynamic performance of China's loitering platform to a new level, the press release said.

The team also made a breakthrough in launching on a turbulent water surface, with the Peregrine drone carrying out China's first deep water release and vertical cold launch on water surface flight tests, the university said.

Tube-launched suicide drones, also known as loitering munitions, have demonstrated their potential in recent conflicts around the world, with the Switchblade being deployed in the Ukraine crisis, a Beijing-based military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Sunday.

Capable of both reconnaissance and attack, tube-launched drones provide strong stealth and flexibility on the battlefield because they can be carried and operated by individual soldiers or carried by vehicles and vessels in large numbers, experts said, noting that China will not be absent in the development of such technologies.

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