China’s Beihang UAS readies BZK-005E long-range reconnaissance UAV
The Beijing-based Beihang Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Technology is now seeking the first international order for its export-specific BZK-005E multirole medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV), following the successful grant of an export licence for the air vehicle earlier in September.
The BZK-005E is a modernised derivative of the indigenously developed BZK-005 platform — also known as the Changying (Long Eagle) — in widespread use across the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) air, land, and sea services for long-range reconnaissance and electronic intelligence (ELINT) missions, made its public debut at the latest iteration of Airshow China in Zhuhai from 6–11 November.
The BZK-005E MALE reconnaissance UAV is based on the domestically successful BZK-005 platform in service with the PLA’s air, ground, and naval forces. An actual production-ready example was showcased at the Airshow China 2018 exhibition in Zhuhai. (IHS Markit/Kelvin Wong)
According to company specifications, the BZK-005E has maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 1,500 kg, with a length and wingspan of 10.05 m and 18 m respectively. Powered by a rear-mounted piston engine that drives a three-bladed pusher-propeller, the air vehicle can achieve a stated maximum level flight speed of 210 km/h although it typically cruises at 130–180 km/h up to its flight ceiling of 7,500 m (24,606 ft). Operational radius is understood to be in excess of 2,000 km when employing satellite communication datalinks.
Beihang UAS is quoting a flight endurance of 40 hours when the BZK-005E is in its reconnaissance configuration with a chin-mounted electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) ball turret, although the air vehicle features a 370 kg payload capacity that enables it to be reconfigured for other mission types, including all-weather intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) with a chin-mounted synthetic aperture radar (SAR) system and a ventral EO/IR turret, ELINT, and communications relay.
The airframe of the BZK-005E is constructed from carbon fibre composite material, comprising a main fuselage nacelle that incorporates a dorsal satellite communications antenna fairing and side chines, swept back mid-mounted wings — featuring inset control and lift surfaces — that support twin tailbooms emanating from the trailing edges of structural pod fairings attached to the lower surface of the wings.
In the initial stage, Garuda will take three of the UAVs, which will be capable of carrying up to 1.2t of cargo, with an endurance of 1,200km while flying at an altitude of up to 5,000m.
Testing the UAVs will take place in September, with plans to begin operational deployments in the fourth quarter of 2019.
The SkyTeam carrier says it plans to deploy up to 100 UAVs across Indonesia for its cargo operations, as part of a wider focus on growing its domestic cargo operations.
“The use of UAVs is an ideal option for the carrier to seize market demand and cargo revenue opportunities, particularly in connecting the remote regions with limited airport facilities such as those in Maluku, Papua, and Sulawesi,” says Garuda’s cargo and business development director Mohammad Iqbal.
“Right now we are intensively coordinating with the stakeholders from the regulation and its operational management to ensure a smooth [operation]. We will begin testing the UAV technology in terms of airport feasibility, runway, navigation, air traffic control, meteorology and its related aspects sometime in September 2019”.
The BZK-005 is a high-altitude, long-range UAV designed by Beihang UAS Technology, an offshoot of Beijing-based Beihang University. It is being pitched at logistics companies for the development of drone delivery networks.