A Swedish firm, CybAero, has sold an unspecified number of APID 60 helicopter UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) to the Chinese Coast Guard, for use on customs (anti-smuggling) ships. The APID 60 is a 180 kg (400 pound) helicopter UAV that can carry a 75 kg (165 pound) payload for up to six hours per sortie. The APID 60 has a max speed of 150 kilometers an hour, max altitude of 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) and can operate up to 200 kilometers from the control station (on a ship or land). The big attraction of this type of UAV is that it costs more than 75 percent less than a manned helicopter to operate and for reconnaissance it is nearly as effective.
The APID 60 is an upgraded version of the APID 55 which was exported to the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and had a top speed of 110 kilometers an hour and could only operate 50 kilometers from the ground station. The UAE manufactures the APID 55 under license and exports it in addition to using it for coastal patrol and anti-smuggling operations.
Chinese firms already produce helicopter UAVs, but apparently not of the same quality and performance of the APID 60. Unlike most other helicopter UAVs the APID 55/60 was built from an original design rather than taking an existing small helicopters and turning it into a UAV. Moreover, the APID 60 is much more efficient than existing Chinese-made helicopter UAVs. For example, the Chinese Z-5, introduced in 2011, is a 437 kg (962 pound) helicopter UAV that can carry up to 100 kg (220 pounds) for up to three hours (six hours if you cut that payload in half) and operate a hundred kilometers from the control station. This is typical of what current Chinese helicopter UAVs can do and the Swedes expect the Chinese will, as they usually do, hand over one the APID 60s to Chinese engineers for disassembly and careful examination.
Meanwhile the U.S. has had a lot of success with UAVs based on small helicopters. The 1.4 ton MQ-8B is based on the 1.5 ton Schweitzer 330 manned helicopter. The MQ-8B can carry 90 kg (200 pounds) of sensors and weapons. It has an endurance of 8 hours and a cruise speed of 200 kilometers an hour. The MQ-8B can carry the Griffin (a 16 kg/35 pound guided missile with a range of 8,000 meters) and the 11.4 kg (25 pound) 70mm guided missile (based on the World War II era 70mm unguided rocket) with a range of 6,000 meters.
The MQ-8C was created by having the mechanical and software components (that make a manned helicopter into a UAV) from the MQ-8B Fire Scout installed in the larger Bell 407 helicopter. As a result the 1.4 ton MQ-8B becomes the 2.7 ton MQ-8C. The MQ-8C can carry heavier weapons, like the 48.2 kg (106 pounds) Hellfire missile, has longer endurance, is faster and more reliable in bad weather.