China on way to build world's largest armed drone for military purposes
BEIJING - China's drone newcomer Tengoen Technology (also spelled Tengdun) has ambitious plans. The company promises to market armed drones for purchase. It also promises to build the world's biggest cargo drone – which is quite an achievement for a company that was only founded in 2016.
Popular Science reported the TB-001 Scorpion, Tengoen's flagship vehicle, is a twin-engine, double-tail drone. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 2.8 tons, a range of more than 6,000km, and provisions to carry two 100kg bombs or missiles. Tengoen has also partnered with Chinese delivery company SF Express to build a souped-up TB-001 for cargo delivery, increasing the drone's size to 3.3 tons, with a 1.2-ton payload.
In December 2017, the modified TB-011 showed off its capability by para-dropping supplies to a Huawei repair crew fixing a cell tower in the mountainous Yunnan Province. According to Popular Science, Tengoen is already at work building an eight-engine drone with a wingspan of more than 42 meters to carry a payload of 20 tons up to 7,500km – which is similar to a medium-sized manned cargo plane.
The carbon-fiber, double-bodied drone carries the payload module between the two fuselages and is being built at Tengoen's facility in Chengdu. It is expected that it will be launched in 2020.
Popular Science stated that Tengoen executives were quick to highlight civilian applications for the unmanned aircraft system: space launch, fire fighting, and emergency relief. The drone's large size and modular payload capacity could also take on a variety of military missions, including intelligence gathering and electronic warfare.
Its large payload could make it function as an aerial tanker, too, refueling aircraft like search-and-rescue helicopters, patrolling fighters, cargo transports, and bombers, the report stated.