You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Of hot meals and cold truth: China’s drone lies don’t stand up to scrutiny

India Today logo India Today 15-09-2020 Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd)
a flock of seagulls flying in the sky

The Chinese propaganda machinery is working overtime to deride the Indian Army, a foe it doesn't even understand. Moving away from stealth bombers and rocket launchers, Chinese media seems to be fascinated by something more innovative drones delivering food in frontline areas.

In a move to please the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin recently posted a video on Twitter of drones supplying hot meals to Chinese frontline soldiers. It is to be noted that Twitter is banned in China; the target audience is therefore not Chinese, and the video is a propaganda ploy.

India Today's OSINT team exposes this 'hot meals' video.

What the video shows

The video shows a hexacopter drone carrying food and supplying it to soldiers in a remote area. In the video, food can be seen getting prepared in an open vehicle-based cookhouse, packed in thin and transparent plastic containers inside a tent, and carried in vehicles up to a loading point.

At the loading point, soldiers take out the hexacopter from its cardboard container, assemble it, place the food in black plastic carry bags with five water bottles, load it on the hexacopter and eight of them take off.

The drop is shown from almost 30-40m height in black and white plastic carry bags. Suddenly soldiers bring food in square large hot cases from the same trucks and food packets are distributed to soldiers who are seen eating in squatting position.

The lies exposed

The hexacopter is what looks like a China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) produced aircraft displayed in Zhuhai exposition. However, it is a much cheaper version of CETC prototype produced possibly by Dongying Youjia Industry & Trade Co. Ltd. named YJU22.

The size and shape of the two versions are different, and a closer inspection of the video when compared to the actual pictures of the YJU22 as shown in picture 1 suggests that they are YJU22.

The YJU22 is a six-axle, six-propeller copter that can take barely 20kg weight for a 2m high flight. The weight carrying capacity obviously reduces at higher heights with maximum height achieved 100m without load.

The hexacopter shown has a box-type contraption with a hinged bottom flap. The bottom flap opens for loading and drop.

The weight of the box and automatic release button's electronic and mechanical system would be included in the weight carried, thus further reducing the capacity.

Loading and drop

The video very clearly shows the difficulty in loading the meals which are literally stuffed in. A very small crammed space of around 12'x12' seen in the video as compared to the hands and someone is seen pushing the water bottles to fit along with the food packages.

Five 250ml bottles indicate that one hexacopter can carry meals for five personnel only. The normal consumption of humans doing hard labour would be 500ml-1litre. Considering there are five small water bottles of 250-500ml, the hexacopter would be carrying meals for five personnel.

The speed of such hexacopter is generally 15m per minute, however, the video indicates an extremely high speed.

The drop is shown without any parachute and the food dropped freely at extremely high speeds from a height of 30-40m. The landings of such hexacopters are not possible since it needs a flat space of 4'x4' and would be difficult for the remote controller to adjust the landing and take-off from a distance of 1-2km.

The thin plastic containers would certainly not survive such a drop in rocky, mountainous areas, even in the winter snow.

The funny part of the video is the drop showing two pillow cushions tied with thermacol at the bottom, which could well mean that the packets shown falling are not food/water packets.

Range and swarming

The hexacopter shown works on radio remote control provided separately for every hexacopter just like a handheld gaming control box.

The range of such hexacopter would be anything depending upon the battery power provided from 1-2km in direct line of sight.

The delivery will also be the line of sight and hence cannot reach remote areas as claimed. In areas like Galwan, it will not even cross a hundred metres. These small drones can't be controlled by relay controls as it needs additional heavy electronics for change of remote controls. The additional electronics would increase weight and further reduce load carrying capacity.

Swarming of such meals carrying hexacopter is not possible as the deployment in mountains will be varying in height and locations. With the deployment of troops at different heights, locations and paths in the mountainous region, it becomes difficult to control a swarm of such hexacopters. The high altitudes also pose problems like frost deposits on propellers and hinges which get jammed in cold environments.

The aircraft doesn't have any cameras due to weight carrying capacity and will have to depend on the ability of the remote controller to locate and drop the load.

The propaganda tool of hexacopter carrying hot meals neither looks innovative nor feasible.

(Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd) is a consultant for India Today. A satellite imagery analyst, he served in the Indian Army for over 33 years)

More from India Today

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon