A vertical lift UAV
PC : SINA WEIBO

On Sunday, the Type 075 landing helicopter dock (LHD), a Chinese helicopter carrier capable of disembarking amphibious landing craft and troops, returned to Shanghai from its maiden voyage. However, amid the photos and videos of its arrival are a rare and clear image of an unmanned helicopter not previously glimpsed in such detail.

SINA WEIBO

A vertical lift UAV is spotted on the docks at Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai next to mockups of two helicopters used for fitting out the Type 075 amphibious assault ship

The photo was posted on the Chinese social media site Sina Weibo, and seems to show three different unmanned helicopters. The two on the left have previously been spotted at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard docks near the Type 075, but never in such clarity.

At left is the mystery vertical lift unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). At middle and right in the image are mockups of a Z-8 heavy-lift chopper, a license-built version of the French Aérospatiale SA 321 Super Frelon, and a Z-20 multi-role helicopter, which would be used as stand-ins on the ship to test all the functions that will one day concern real helicopters, such as elevators, hangars and the like.

What’s interesting is how nobody seems to know anything about this mystery drone. It isn’t an unmanned version of any known Chinese helicopter, and the vertical lift UAVs seen thus far are smaller and do not match the profile of that spotted in Shanghai. According to French outlet East Pendulum, the dimensions of the drone can be extrapolated from its size compared to the Z-8: it is roughly between 8.23 and 9.55 meters long and about 2.5 meters high.

Meanwhile, the Type 075, which will one day likely deploy the mystery drone alongside its manned helicopters, finished its first sea trials, which lasted some four weeks. The military analysis account Detresfa on Twitter posted a map on Monday showing the zigzag path the Type 075 cut across the East China Sea during its 19-day voyage.

The lead vessel of #China PLAN’s Type 075 LHD has returned to #Shanghai after completing it’s sea trials. Satellite data from its maiden voyage over the last few weeks plotted the testing zone roughly 100 nautical miles from the coast. pic.twitter.com/DPAjq2tHy9— d-atis☠️ (@detresfa_) August 24, 2020

Slowly the images are getting better showing the Type 075’s return home to the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard after its first sea trail, which started on 5. August 2020.

(Images via @海洋装备与公务船资讯 from Weibo) pic.twitter.com/yQfMnuO4PK— @Rupprecht_A (@RupprechtDeino) August 23, 2020