An unmanned helicopter developed by Aviation Industry Corporation of China (中国航空工业集团) recently helped put out a raging wildfire in northern China’s Inner Mongolia, Chinese media reported.
This is also the first time the AR-500 chopper has been deployed to combat a bushfire in the Daxing’anling forests of northern China following its delivery to China’s emergency response authorities.
The wildfire was reportedly ignited by a lightning bolt and engulfed more than 1,000 hectares of land.
After the fire broke out, the AR-500 flew over burning forests multiple times to undertake reconnaissance, positioning, session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking and telecommunication tasks, which proved essential to eventually extinguishing the inferno.
Fire hazards in thick and rolling forests of northeastern China have been a long-standing concern.
Fire brigades stationed in their vicinity are often understaffed to respond forcefully to blazes, calling for more high-tech equipment to assist them.
According to media reports, AR-500 is the first self-piloting chopper AVIC delivered to China’s Ministry of Emergency Management.
Developed by China Helicopter Research and Design Institute affiliated with AVIC, it has a maximum take-off mass of 500 kg. With a load capacity of 70 kg and a lift of 5 km, the aircraft is able to remain airborne for up to eight hours.
It features a radius of 100 km and cruises at a maximum 140 kph.
During its recent firefighting mission in Inner Mongolia, AR-500 sent back high-resolution video and data to rescue operators on site and in Beijing, allowing them to assess the fire’s severity and its path.
Frontline firefighters and rescuers then received commands and instructions as to what to do next.
As of August 12, the wildfire had been put out.
The role played by the autonomous chopper in signal transmission and SIP trunking has significant value for the efficiency of front-line command during emergency operation, local media reported.
Prior to this real-world application, AR-500 had participated in a number of firefighting, emergency and even military exercises.
Chinese media reported that PLA soldiers from a brigade of 74th infantry troops used the chopper to survey, inspect and disinfect areas “polluted” by biochemical weapons in a drill last year in the deserts of northwestern China.