China’s new CR500 Golden Eagle helicopter drone now being prepared for war. It looks like a mini-drone helicopter built to fly at high speeds with coaxial, counter rotating blades and a small, sensor-carrying body structure. The drone is likely intended to find and paint hostile targets ahead of advancing armored units.
The new ready-for-production drone has been cleared for export by Chinese authorities, raising the already large concern that dangerous drone technologies will continue to advance in sophistication and proliferate quickly around the world. Those seeking advanced drones range from large nation states looking to offer reconnaissance support to large mechanized armored units to small groups of rogue, stateless insurgents or even terrorists.
While many of the specifics of the platform, such as its speed or sensor payload, may not be fully known, a Chinese government-backed newspaper writes that the drone is ideally suited to support tanks, self-propelled artillery and other ground combat units advancing to enemy contact.
“The drone can carry a large payload, has a long endurance even when fully loaded, and a compact structure that can be easily stored and transported. It can also resist strong winds, carry different types of electro-optical pods and payloads, and act as a logistics support craft and deliver materials with pinpoint accuracy,” the drone’s maker, a Chinese state-owned firm called NORINCO stated in the Global Times newspaper.
The paper even goes on to say that the Golden Eagle is “designed to meet the demands of the arms trade,” a scenario likely to fortify or simply add to existing U.S. concerns that China is not only engineering dangerous new technologies but also exporting them to hostile nations around the world.
The drone is likely armed with standard EO/IR camera sensors and electronic warfare systems, and it may be that its principal advantage or attribute may simply be intended to be its speed. The exact speed may not be known at the moment, however it is clearly built with counter-rotating rotor blades, a well-known compound configuration built to maximize speed. The idea is to offset potentially destabilizing vibrations or flight-path disturbances likely to take place at high speeds.
Also, much like a compound configuration, albeit in a massively scaled back way, the mini-helicopter drone may have some kind of thrusting or propulsion mechanism in the back. It may not be known if the Golden Eagle is faster than the larger, more rounded U.S. Navy helicopter-like Fire Scout drone, yet speed might be a key advantage when it comes to scouting ahead of attacking armored units. As a vertical take-off-and-landing drone, it would not have to rely upon a small landing strip or catapult of some kind to launch and can instead be organic or closely responsive to any ground forces it may support.
The drone also looks like it has small side pylons or mini-fins which might be able to hold weapons for remote firing, which would allow an aerial attack should targets beyond line of sight for friendly troops be identified.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.