China resumes testing of its biplane cargo drone

AVIC Y-5U cargo drone

The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) performed another series of tests on the Y-5U, an unmanned version of the domestically-manufactured copy of Antonov An-5 biplane. 

The aircraft performed a series of flights in China’s Inner Mongolia region, landing and taking off at regional airports. 

AVIC noted that the flights went smoothly, as reported by defense news journal Janes. Janes suggests the aircraft took off autonomously, flew on an 85-kilometer (53-mile) route and landed, before taking off and flying back next day. 

The Y-5U is an unmanned version of the Y-5B, an upgraded variant of the Nanchang Y-5, also known as the Yunshuji. The aircraft was developed in the 1950s as a domestically manufactured version of the Antonov An-2 utility biplane and is still widely used as an agricultural and utility airplane across China. 

The Y-5U conducted its maiden flight in 2021, autonomously taking off and landing at Zhuhai Aviation Industry Park. 

Reports about the aircraft tests appear to be scarce in Chinese media, suggesting that the latest tests could have been the first since the Y-5U’s maiden flight. 

According to AVIC, the Y-5U can carry 5,250 kilograms (11,574 pounds), which is almost twice the payload capacity of a regular unmodified An-2 biplane. AVIC also claims the Y-5B’s internal cargo hold is significantly larger than that of the manned variant of the plane owing to space freed-up in the cockpit. 

The Y-5U is one of several unmanned cargo aircraft being tested by AVIC. In June 2022 the company flew the TP500, a purpose-built cargo drone, for the first time. 

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