The eastern Chinese city of Ningbo unveiled on August 25 what it said was the nation’s first hangar capable of changing batteries for eVTOL aircraft and drones, local media reported today.
The launch event took place in Yuyao, a prefecture-level city governed by Ningbo, attended by local officials and dignitaries.
The hangar is normally a stationary facility located in the vicinity of power lines.
It houses a fixed-wing drone or eVTOL aircraft meant for autonomous inspection of power lines and pylons.
Equipped with a retractable vertipad for the take-off and landing of small-sized aircraft, the hangar is able to swap battery packs for aerial vehicles.
This ensures continuous unmanned inspection along important power lines and grids in remote areas.
Photo originally published by Xinhua news agency
Somehow a slew of Chinese media reports about the August 25 launch appear to conflict with an earlier story by state-run Xinhua news agency.
In an infographic Xinhua story dated June 16, 2022, an autonomous inspection drone is seen taking off from a vertipad of a hangar in Xuancheng, a city of eastern China’s Anhui Province.
It’s unclear which hangar was the “first of its kind” in the country.
It’s customary for Chinese media to highlight and occasionally exaggerate the importance of a news item by peppering their headlines and contents with superlatives — sometimes without fact-checking.
The smart hangar introduced in Ningbo was developed by Zhejiang Robot Industry Group (浙江机器人产业集团) in partnership with UAV manufacturers Jizhen Intelligence (极臻智能) and Aeronitor (远度科技).
Utilizing AI, machine vision and automated control technologies, this hangar reportedly realizes battery swap with efficiency and intelligence.
Specifically, multi-rotor drones can make stops at these hangars, have their batteries swapped by a robotic arm and carry on flying to their next destinations — as if “leapfrogging” from one location to another.
The original Chinese story didn’t say how long it takes for an UAV to go through the battery swap, though.
According to the author, this type of inspection involves complex innovations such as dynamic coordination algorithms.
They not just considerably boost the flight endurance, working radius and efficiency of UAVs, but also improves emergency response management, the story said, without elaborating.