Wing Loong-1, one of China’s large-sized leading industrial UAV models, recently took part in an aerial firefighting exercise organized by the country’s top emergency reaction authorities, Sichuan Daily reported yesterday.
Wing Loong-1E, or WL-1E, a variant of WL-1, was one of nine aircraft that took to the skies on October 27 as part of a fire drill, aerial inspection and telecom maintenance, organized by China’s Ministry of Emergency Management.
The original news story didn’t specify how many WL-1E were involved in the operation.
Developed by AVIC Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Co., Ltd, WL-1E took off at 8am from Zhanghe Airport in Jingmen, a city in central China’s Hubei Province, on the day of the exercise.
Laden with reconnaissance equipment, multi-functional radars and optical pods, the aircraft arrived at the scene around 9am, hovered in mid-air and reported the situation to the command center.
The footage it beamed back captured the data essential to on-the-spot implementation of a firefighting plan, a search and rescue operation, and damage assessment.
An expanding product line
With a body length of 9m, a height of 2.7m and a wingspan of 14m, WL-1 weighs in at 1.1 tons and has a maximum take-off mass (MTOM) of 1,200kg.
It has a load capacity of 200kg and a lift of 6km. With a top speed of 280kph, it can remain airborne for 20 hours and has a range of 4km according to public records.
Following its maiden flight in October 2007, the WL family has been gradually expanded to include new members.
According to the website of AVIC Chengdu Aircraft Industrial Group, the manufacturer, it now mainly churns out four types of WL drones.
As industrial UAVs have gone into service in ever larger numbers over the past years, new applications are being created.
During the drill, the aircraft was repurposed into an aerial base station to keep the telecom network running, ensuring prolonged and stable signal coverage where ground telecom infrastructure might have failed to work.
The exercise, the largest of its kind in China, involved multiple types of aerial vehicles and was aimed at bolstering the country’s ability to conduct aerial firefighting, rescue, first aid and emergency telecom support, among other tasks.
Different models from the WL series have participated in the drill for three years in a row, with them acquitting themselves in various tests and under extreme weather conditions, state media reported.
Moving forward, AVIC Chengdu Aircraft Industrial Group plans to continue optimizing the performance of its products, for innovative use such as weather modification and coordination between drones, unmanned or crewed.