China’s New High-Altitude Drones Better Than U.S. military’s RQ-4 Global Hawk
China has unveiled a formidable new high-altitude drone that could give its military a significant advantage.
Designed to operate in “near space,” 12.5 miles above sea level or higher, China’s new drones can break through air defenses, avoid radar detection, and collect valuable intelligence while staying well beyond the range of anti-aircraft fire.
Operating at these heights has been a challenge that has long eluded engineers. Dubbed a drone “death zone” as the air at this elevation makes it difficult to generate lift and extremely low temperatures cause electrical equipment like batteries to fail.
Until now, the U.S. military’s RQ-4 Global Hawk has been the highest-flying drone, operating at altitudes of 60,000 feet. But in a recent test, Chinese engineers surpassed that, flying an experimental drone at 82,000 feet.
At a research facility in Inner Mongolia, two drones were attached to a weather balloon and deployed at 30,000 feet and 82,000 feet. Roughly the size of a bat and weighing about as much as a soccer ball, the drones were launched by an electromagnetic pulse sling shot that catapulted them out at 60 mph.
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