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China-developed AS700 civil manned airship makes first ferry flight

WUHAN, April 1 — China’s independently-developed AS700 civil manned airship has carried out a successful maiden ferry flight in central China’s Hubei Province, and the first air vehicle is scheduled to be delivered by the end of this year.

The airship took off from Jingmen Zhanghe Airport and landed at an airport in Jingzhou after a one hour and 46 minute flight, according to the developer, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).

“The performance proceeded smoothly as planned. The airship displayed sound maneuverability,” said Lin Hong, pilot of the ferry flight, adding that the AS700 has the ability to take off and land vertically in a narrow field, and it is more mobile and flexible than other types of airships.

Zhou Lei, chief designer of the airship project said that the flight fully verified the AS700’s flight communication, facility loading as well as take-off and landing capabilities, laying the foundation for subsequent longer distance and longer endurance flights.

Since the AS700 obtained the type certificate in China last year, the company has received orders for 18 units of the airship. The customers primarily consist of those in the low-altitude sightseeing tourism sector.

The airship’s development team plans on making upgrades to further expand the application scenarios to include emergency rescue, urban public services and other fields.

The single-capsule manned airship has a maximum capacity carrying 10 persons, including a pilot. It has a maximum take-off weight of 4,150 kg, a maximum flight range of 700 km, and a maximum endurance of 10 hours.

The AS700 is an advanced civil airship developed in compliance with the airworthiness regulations of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), and the developer has independent property rights over this manned airship, said AVIC.

The development team made multiple tech-breakthroughs in the AS700 project, such as the configuration design of the light low-cost capsule airship, and the related flight control technologies.

It is also the country’s first thrust-vector-control airship to have obtained the type certification from the civil aviation authorities.

The AS700 airship has already caught the attention of potential customers from various sectors, including the tourism industry.

China has a huge market and dense city clusters. The size of China’s low-altitude economy is estimated to have exceeded 500 billion yuan in 2023, with its scale expected to rise to 2 trillion yuan by 2030, according to the CAAC.

The AS700 airship is getting great opportunities due to the progress of the low-altitude economy, a strategic emerging industry in the country. In line with this trend, the development team will focus on cultivating low-altitude sightseeing services and other demonstration scenarios to expand this new airship’s future commercial applications, said the AVIC.

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