Above: A U650 unmanned amphibious aircraft undergoes tests.
Below: A U650 drone made by UVS makes debut at Airshow China 2016.
A Chinese company has produced the world's first unmanned, amphibious commercial aircraft, with plans to use it to deliver goods, transport supplies to islands and detect submarines, according to the manufacturer.
Liu Jiandong, founder and chairman of UVS Intelligence System, a privately owned drone-maker in Shanghai, said mass production of its U650 seaplane has begun and will enter commercial operation this year with a Chinese express delivery company and a client in Southeast Asia.
The U650 was developed based on Spain's Colyaer Freedom S100 amphibious ultralight aircraft, whose intellectual property rights were wholly acquired by the Shanghai company, according to UVS.
The amphibious drone carried out its maiden flight from waters in Central China in December 2015, the company said.
The 5.85-meter-long unmanned seaplane, made of carbon fiber, is able to stay aloft 15 hours with a cruising speed of 180 kilometers per hour and a flight range of 2,000 km. It is capable of takeoffs and landings from short unpaved airstrips, grassland or water.
The drone can carry up to 250 kilograms of cargo and its wings can also carry four payloads, such as inflatable life rafts.
Almost all of China's large couriers, such as China Post and SF Express, have begun to invest in research and development on delivery drones. Analysts have said drones will play an increasingly important role in the country's skyrocketing online shopping industry.
Globally, Amazon and DHL Express have deployed drones for delivery service on a small and experimental scale, and are continuing to design new models.
In addition to couriers, U650 will also be able to benefit Chinese troops and residents on islands and reefs in the South China Sea, Liu said.
The U650 is capable of carrying out reconnaissance and strikes for the military thanks to its ability to carry radar, sonar or missiles.