China unveils world’s first amphibious drone

BEIJING – A Shanghai-based company has produced the world’s first unmanned, amphibious commercial aircraft, which will be used to deliver supplies to island and detect submarines.

Liu Jiandong, founder and chairman of UVS Intelligence System, told state-run media that mass production of its U650 seaplane has started and will enter commercial operation this year with a Chinese express delivery company and a client in Southeast Asia.

China Daily quoted Liu Jiandong as saying that the company is working with the domestic client to apply for approval from air traffic management authorities of our plan to open up a freight route next year using the unmanned, amphibious drone.

The U650 drone carried out its maiden flight form waters in Central China in December 2015. It is 5,85 meters long, made of carbon fiber of coal and is able to stay aloft 15 hours with a cruising speed of 180 kilometers per hour and a flight range of 2,000 km.

In addition, it is capable of takeoffs and landings from short unpaved airstrips, grassland or water, and can carry up to 250 kg of cargo and its wings can also carry four payloads, such as inflatable life rafts.

U650 will also be able to benefit Chinese troops and residents on island and reefs in the South China Sea, according to the manufacturer.

Almost all of China’s large couriers, such as China Post and SF Express, have begun to invest in research and development on delivery drones. Analysts have said drones will play an increasingly important role in the country’s skyrocketing online shopping industry.

Globally, Amazon and DHL Express have deployed drones for delivery service on a small and experimental scale, and are continuing to design new models.