China’s fully solar-powered, semi-satellite drone

  • IASbaba
  • September 9, 2022
  • 0
Science and Technology
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In News: China’s first fully solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle, Qimingxing-50, or Morning Star-50, has successfully completed its maiden test flight with all onboard systems functioning optimally.

The Mechanics

  • With a wingspan of 164-ft, the drone is a large machine powered entirely by solar panels.
  • The high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAV can stay airborne for long durations.
  • Flies above 20-km altitude where there is stable airflow with no clouds.
  • Helps these drones to make the maximum use of solar equipment to stay functional for extended durations.
  • In fact, the drone can operate without a break for months, even years.

Cross between drone and satellite

  • The fact that the drone can operate in near-space – 20 km to 100 km above the Earth’s surface – makes it capable of carrying out satellite-like functions.
  • These drones are also referred to as ‘High Altitude Platform Stations’ or pseudo-satellites.
  • China already has this capacity, but the Qimingxing-50’s long-endurance provides an added advantage to make this capability available over a longer period.


  • Cost-effective to build
  • Easy to launch and operate
  • Being entirely powered by clean energy from the Sun, it can help boost China’s capabilities to operate in near-space and over the ocean.
  • If satellite services are not available for, say, time-sensitive operations or in case of wartime disruption, then near-space UAVs can step in to fill the operational gap.
  • This HALE UAV is capable of conducting high-altitude reconnaissance, apart from monitoring forest fires, providing communication and environment relay.

Has any other country achieved this?

  • In July this year, the US Army helped test a solar-powered, near-space Airbus Zephyr S drone that set a new record by being airborne for 42 days.


  • India’s PLI Scheme for Drone Industry
  • Will incentivize emergence of Advanced Automotive Technologies global supply chain in India
  • Help create additional employment of over 7.6 lakh people
  • Incentives worth ₹ 26,058 crore will be provided to industry over five years
  • It will bring fresh investments of over₹5,000 crore in three years and incremental production of over ₹ 1,500 crore

Source: The Indian Express

Previous Year Question

Q.1) Which one of the following statements best reflects the idea behind the “Fractional Orbital Bombardment System” often talked about in media? (2022)

  1. A hypersonic missile is launched into space to counter the asteroid approaching the Earth and explode it in space.
  2. A spacecraft lands on another planet, after making several orbital motions.
  3. A missile is put into a stable orbit around the Earth and deorbits over a target on the Earth.
  4. A spacecraft moves along a comet with the same speed and places a probe on its surface.


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