(A CH-5 Drone is on display at Airshow China 2016)
Chinese unmanned aircraft have made the first drone-based aerial survey of mineral resources in Africa, according to the drones' producer-China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, which refitted several of its best-selling CH-3 midrange combat/reconnaissance unpiloted planes to be the world's first deployable mine-survey drones and have been using them to prospect for mineral resources in the southern African country of Zambia since mid-July.
So far, the CH-3s have carried out more than 50 flights and flown nearly 32,000 kilometers in Zambia in aerial prospecting operations, the academy said in a news release sent to China Daily.
The project is part of an intergovernmental aid program launched by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce's Agency for International Economic Cooperation and China Geological Survey and was aimed at using drones to survey an 80,000-square kilometer area in northern and northeastern Zambia.
China has used manned aircraft to perform aerial prospecting for other nations such as Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos, and has deployed unmanned planes to survey mineral resources on its own territory. However, this is the first time a Chinese drone has conducted such an operation overseas and is also the first time an African nation has adopted unmanned aircraft to explore mines, the academy said.
The China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics is the country's largest exporter of military drones. Its CH series have been sold to militaries in more than 10 countries, making it the largest military drone family the country has exported, according to the academy.