However, Western analysts say it will be some time before the aircraft, due to make its maiden flight in 2014, proves both its technical worth and its financial viability.
“You can always build a jet — you can practically Google it, in fact,” said Virginia-based aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia. “But the real skill is creating something the market wants and then selling and financing it.”
Industry giant China Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) displayed its “Yi Long” drone, called Wing Loong in English, at the opening of China’s premier airshow in the southern city of Zhuhai, state media said.
AVIC, which makes both military and civil aircraft, also showed a model of a new generation fighter jet that Chinese media said was the J-31, a stealth plane whose existence was only recently known to the public.
The Chinese drone resembles the Predator manufactured by US-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, used by the US military, but is likely priced far more cheaply, Chang said, adding the Wing Loong had already been exported.
China’s first stealth fighter, the J-20, was unveiled in early 2011 but is not expected to enter service until 2018.
Aside from building commercial liners and stealth fighters, Chinese state media has announced that China will open up more airspace at lower altitudes, Xinhua reports:
China will carry out reforms next year to further open up low-altitude airspace to private airplanes with communication and surveillance facilities already built to ensure flight safety.
The announcement was made by Ma Xin, an official with the state air traffic control commission, at the 9th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition that opened on Tuesday. The six-day event, in the southern city of Zhuhai in Guangdong Province, is attended by nearly 650 companies from 39 countries and regions.
Communication and surveilance facilities aimed to ensure low-altitude flight safety have been constructed in major districts of Changchun and Guangzhou and on the Hainan Island, according to Ma.
Opening the airspace is expected to promote China’s general aviation industry, including the purchase and use of private planes. There is potential for market growth in this area but it has been impeded by the country’s restrictions on airspace use.
Read more about China’s airline industry, via CDT.