A Chinese drone company, Flightwin-Innovation, has unveiled a sizeable tandem-rotor cargo transport helicopter drone at the ongoing Dubai Air Show.
The FWH-3000 is shaped much like the American Chinook helicopter and is being introduced to the global market as a viable multipurpose transport drone. Flightwin-Innovation has also showcased a single-rotor cargo drone, the FWH-1500, at the aerospace and defense exhibition.
At the exhibition, China is displaying a range of known and under-development crewed and uncrewed aviation platforms. This includes fighters, helicopters, trainers, transport aircraft and drones.
In the indoor booth, AVIC is displaying advanced aviation equipment such as the FC-31 stealth fighter jet, the Y-20 strategic transport aircraft, the Z-20 tactical utility helicopter, the Wing Loong-X and the Wing Loong-2 fixed-wing drones, and the AR-36 vertical takeoff and landing drone.
Models of the Y-20 sizeable strategic transport aircraft, J-10CE single-engine medium-weight fighter, are also exhibited.
There are also AR-2000 and AR-500W unmanned helicopter models, with the AR-2000 exhibited for the first time at an overseas expo.
A flight performance by the J-10C fighters from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Bayi Aerobatic Team will also be held.
Chinook-Shaped Transport Drone
According to posts on several Telegram groups and Sina Weibo pages discussing robotics and the drone industry, the FWH-3000’s maximum take-off weight is 2.5 tons, the maximum payload is one ton, and the flight endurance is five hours with a full load.
It is reported that the drone can carry up to six soldiers or wounded persons. Takeoff and landing can be carried out in high altitudes. Its interior cabin space of 1.5 cubic meters has been specifically designed for long-range missions.
The FWH-1500 weighs 1,000 kilograms, has a maximum payload of 300 kg and can fly for five hours.
“Furthermore, with fire-extinguishing bombs mounted, the FWH-1500 can cover an area of more than 50 sq km for fire reconnaissance, prevention, and suppression,” said a report on AI Online.
The aircraft can carry optoelectronic pods for surveillance or search and rescue missions in complex areas and terrains.
It is also claimed to have completed its first fire suppression application and participated in a 10-day flood relief effort in Beijing. Those missions involved night flights in heavy rain, delivering emergency medicine and other supplies.
Images of the drone first appeared online in November 2022 on X (formerly Twitter) in a different grayish color scheme, other than the whitish paint on the drone in images going around on social media.
It is also unclear if these are the images from the Dubai Air Show or a different event in China. They were, however, published on other aviation media reports.
Developer Wants Joint Manufacturing
The forums maintained that the completion of flight testing of the FWH-3000 is planned for “the end of 2023,” after which it will go into production.
This suggests what is being displayed is a prototype and is far from entering serial production. It can be assumed that Flightwin might be looking for partnerships or industrial-commercial collaborations for joint manufacturing and localized serial production in other countries.
A report on Aviation Week confirmed this possibility. “Company officials have visited a United Arab Emirates-based company this week, eyeing opportunities for local assembly of both aircraft for customers in the Middle East. It can also be said that one of the firm’s primary objectives behind participating in the exhibition is looking at industrial collaborations other than directly attracting end-users.
Flight IN Aviation Corporation Presents:
FWH-3000 奇努克无人机 (Qi Nu Ke Wu Ren Ji > Chinook Drone) 😅😅
"Qi" is Pronounced as "Chee" not "Kee" pic.twitter.com/xH0mUrLJJu
— The Venomous Stinger 447 (🇨🇦&🇵🇰) (@VenomStinger447) November 10, 2022
Both the FWH-3000 and the FWH-1500 are developed for civilian and government purposes, according to Chong Chen, Flightwin vice president. After instituting in 2008, Flightwin first focused on developing small commercial drones but found the market in China “too competitive,” Chen was quoted in the report.
The company began working on large utility rotorcraft in 2016, beginning with the 1,000-kg FWH-1500 uncrewed aircraft system.
The autonomous FWH-1500 has entered service with Chinese government operators, with operations including air-dropping humanitarian relief supplies after floods. The aircraft can also drop retardant on forest fires and airlift injured or wounded people.
Military & Civilian Use
Civilian drones can easily be adapted for primary military use, as the war in Ukraine has shown. Commercially available leisure and agricultural drones have been modified by Ukraine to conduct everything from essential tactical battlefield surveillance to dropping unguided bombs on ground troops or fitted with explosives in the front to function as loitering munitions.
Transport drones have a similar orientation, whereas UAVs meant to ferry goods and relief materials during natural disasters or evacuate wounded persons can just as quickly be employed for hauling ammunition, rations for soldiers, or flying back injured troops.
Whether the FWH series of drones would sport distinct modifications for military use is unclear. But the developers, in this case, are usually known to offer ruggedized electronics, more robust airframes, and powerful engines.