China’s first autonomous helicopter completes flight tests


China’s first autonomous helicopter, the Xiangying-200, has completed its test flights.

The aircraft took its first unmanned flight on the 29 July, taking-off from a ship deck, and performed a short autonomous flight carrying a payload of 200 kg before landing.

Xiangying-200 is a collaborative project developed by Shenyang Institute of Automation and the Chinese Academy of Sciences and is the first Chinese-made autonomous helicopter. The control, power and transmission systems are all domestically developed – according to Chinese news agency CCTV+.

Whilst many autonomous helicopter projects have been more akin to commercial drones in terms of size, the Xiangying-200 measures 8.7 metres in length and stands at 2.5 metres high, similar to size of the Robinson R66.

Target markets for the Xiangying-200 include coast guard operations, emergency rescue and modern agriculture.

Outside of China, many of the large-scale autonomous helicopter projects are in the military market, with Aurora Flight Sciences autonomous UH-1H Huey being the most notable.

The aviation market most-intently focused on autonomy is the VTOL market, with a significant number of air-taxi projects aspiring for fully-autonomous flight further down the line, including the Chinese-developed Ehang 184, Volocopter and the Bell FCX-001.