Beijing: China plans to deploy its indigenously built drones for surveying and mapping in the disputed South China Sea and along the contentious islands with Japan.

“China is now capable of deploying domestically-designed drones in the South China Sea and Senkaku islands claimed by both Japan and China in the East China Sea for surveying and mapping," Li Yingcheng, general manager of China TopRS Technology Co. Ltd was quoted as saying by state-run People’s Daily. He said the drones can fully cover waters 80 nautical miles from the coastline. They can also partially cover open sea up to 1,500 nautical miles from the coastline.

China, which claims almost all of South China Sea, said it has a total of 12,186 islands and reefs scattered across a total area of 3 million sq. km. Many are located up to 1,000 km away from the mainland. China has designed drones to handle complicated surveying, including the ZC-5B and Zc-10 unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The ZC-5B has a maximum flight distance of 1,400 km, and can stay in the air for up to 30 consecutive hours. Its design makes it especially stealthy, which comes in handy for open sea reef surveying and mapping, Li said.

China has pressed air-patrols over the South China Sea after the international tribunal quashed its claim of historic hold over the area. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines have counter claims over the area. PTI

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