The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has a new hand-thrown drone in its arsenal, and experts said the human-sized fixed-wing aircraft has enhanced imaging devices and will greatly boost basic combat units' reconnaissance capability.
The drone is now in service at a brigade of the 83rd Group Army of the PLA, Weihutang, a column affiliated with China Central Television (CCTV), reported on Wednesday. The report did not reveal the designation of the drone.
Compared to previous hand-thrown drones used by the PLA, the new one is equipped with new reconnaissance equipment, which includes optical and infrared imaging devices, and a new skid landing gear, the report said.
The report did not provide details on the specification of the drone, but a military expert told the Global Times on Wednesday that it is likely capable of detecting targets at further range and provide imaging data at higher definition.
The drone might have a higher maximum take-off weight thanks to its aerodynamic design and more powerful motor, which allows it to carry more equipment, said the expert, who asked to remain anonymous.
Many major military powers already have hand-thrown drones in service, as this type of aircraft has played an important role on battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq in the past, the Weihutang report said.
"One example is the US' RQ-11… You launch [a hand-thrown drone] with your hands, which would act as a catapult, so you don't need flat ground to make it fly as long as there are no obstacles above," the expert said, noting that data gathered in the sky could be sent back instantly.
Such drones are easy to carry and could be deployed by a small team when a small scale tactical reconnaissance is needed, so the team can grasp the real-time battlefield situation without much risk and without requesting deployment of a larger drone, which might not be available all the time, the expert said.
China has a wide variety of drones of different sizes, aerodynamic designs and functions, including the Wing Loong armed reconnaissance drone, the Cloud Shadow high-altitude drone as well as the CH-7 stealth combat drone, which is now in development.