July 18 (UPI) — China has begun commercial production of its most powerful drone, the CH-5 Rainbow.
The drone is “half of the price” of the United States’ Reaper or Predator B, the world’s first unmanned aerial vehicle, The South China Morning Post reported.
According to Wang Song, a professor of aeronautic science and engineering at Beihang University, the $16.9 million Reaper is also the world’s most expensive drone.
“The CH-5 may come in at less than half of the price,” Wang said.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation will begin producing 10 to 20 units a year, according to the Chinese analyst.
“This should meet the early demand,” Wang said, adding China is ready to export its latest drone to interested buyers seeking a UAV with similar capacities as the Reaper.
The CH-5 can be equipped with a maximum of 16 air-to-ground missiles and stay airborne for nearly 48 hours, according to Shi Wen, the drone’s chief designer.
Modifications can allow the drone to fly for up to 120 hours with a range of 6,200 miles.
The performance of the CH-5 “leaves the Predator series in the dust,” Shi said.
But Wang said the Chinese drone couldn’t climb as high as the Reaper, which makes it susceptible to certain kinds of anti-aircraft systems.
The Rainbow flight was conducted successfully at a military airport in Hebei province, according to state news agency Xinhua.
Countries like Iraq may already be deploying Chinese drones to fight the Islamic State.
In 2015, Iraq’s defense ministry released a video shows a missile attack on an IS target by a CH-4B drone, which is a third of the size of the CH-5.