SF Express carries out first large pilotless cargo UAV flight

EXPRESS giant SF Express has completed a successful trial of a large cargo unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flight, according to the Xinhua news agency.

The bi-plane UAV took off from an airport in the northwest Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, which produces various perishable foodstuffs, on August 21 and landed at an airport in inner Mongolia after a one-hour flight.

The FH-98 plane has a maximum take-off weight of 5.25 tonnes and has been designed to carry payloads of up to 1.5 tonnes, with a cabin space of 15 cubic metres.

The aircraft has been jointly developed by SF Express and China Aerospace Times Electronics and is based on the China-developed Y-5B freighter, which itself is based on the An-2. The plane is capable of short take-offs and landing and a cruising speed of 180 kph, meaning it is suitable to serve a regional express hub and nearby cities. It is expected to greatly enhance the efficiency of regional logistics, said SF Express.

The company said it was the first time a large UAV has been used in a logistics project in China. SF Express said the drone would greatly reduce operating costs, to the point that it could eventually compete with trucks.

In 2017, SF Express set up Fonair, a subsidiary, to handle business on the large UAV. To date, Fonair has been given permission to use nine air routes to conduct test flights.

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