Chinese aero-industry has full-embraced the concept of indigenous Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) design and development. This goes beyond the typical short- and mediun-altitude fixed-wing performers and now includes unmanned rotorcraft such as the AR-500C by AViation Industry Corporation (AVIC) of China. The helicopter completed its maiden 20-minute-long flight in May of 2020 and continues development as of this writing.
The AR-500C is built atop the proven framework of the earlier AR-500B model and, once operational, will be tasked with high-altitude reconnaissance work, suitable for operating in the "hot-and-high" rugged mountainous areas of China. Development work began in 2019 with the first flyable example completed in March of 2020. Ground-testing commenced soon after leading up to the first-flight in May.
As an unmanned rotorcraft, the AR-500C takes on a conventional design shape with the main rotor mast set above the fuselage and the tail rotor unit (facing port side) installed at the extreme end of the tail stem as an anti-torque solution. The tail unit also incorporates vertical fins and a curved skid rod. The fuselage of the helicopter houses all pertinent mission and operational systems with a traversing optics set at the "chin" position - providing unfettered, real-time views of the action ahead and surrounding the helicopter. For ground-running, the vehicle is equipped with a simple four-point landing skin solution.
As built, the aircraft can reach a maximum speed of 170 kmh and ranges up to 6,700 meters and out some five hours of flight time. Its MTOW is rated up to 500 kg consisting of various non-attack / mission support loads. The aircraft can operate through ground operator input or autonomously as needed and can furthermore be linked to manned aircraft for a complete aerial network solution.
Beyond its intended general reconnaissance role, developers of the AR-500C envision a slew of over-land / over-battlefield roles for their helicopter design including NBC (Nuclear-Biological-Chemical) data-collection, humanitarian aid, Search and Rescue (SAR), maritime patrol, and Electronic Warfare (EW).