China's AT200 Drone is Big Enough to Fit a Small Car Inside

We've seen drones as small as bees before. Meet the other end of the spectrum.

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China’s new AT200 drone was designed to transport objects larger and heavier than those that can be transported with more common drones. This unmanned aerial vehicle was first publicly demonstrated in action on Oct. 26, and just concluded its second public flight earlier this month. It can fly for more than 1,300 miles in one go, with speeds up to 194 miles per hour while carrying a 1.5-ton payload. 

According to CGTN America, the most recent test flight took place in the Shaanxi Province of China, where developers of the AT200 were eager to present the drone’s “one-click landing” to onlookers. With the push of a button, the unmanned aerial vehicle takes off and navigates the skies autonomously. 

But chief designer Xiaoping Ma won't be finished refining his creation anytime soon, according to CGTN America

“In the future, the drone has to be equipped with an air traffic response device, so that air traffic controllers will know exactly where the airplane is located in real time,” he said. While the AT200 certainly has the appearance of a traditional airplane, it’s certainly squarely rooted in the main tenets of UAVs: Unmanned, autonomous, and programmed to fly. 

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Ma is aware that without the proper framework—an infrastructure set up to facilitate communication and control between all flight-related institutions in the area—the drone itself can’t operate as it’s intended. We’ve seen the subject of air traffic management systems become increasingly relevant, as regulations in the U.S. are being reconsidered and corporations prepare for the seemingly inevitable nationwide drone grid becoming a reality. As the designer of the AT200, Ma is likely eager to put such a system in place in China so that his UAV can be utilized to its fullest potential. 

According to CGTN America, the AT200 was developed at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, over the course of 17 months. What was once a small plane, was modified to become an unmanned cargo drone. Though the drone just completed its second successful public test flight, it’s nowhere near ready to operate in tandem with traditional airports. Reportedly, the AT200 requires specific conditions such as compatible runway material as well as an airport at a specific altitude. 

If you’re curious to learn more about China’s concurrent drones and the country’s relationship to UAVs, in general, take a look at this short conversation with Ryan English, president and co-founder of Flymotion Unmanned Systems, courtesy of CGTN America