Experts eye underground problems

Updated: 2015-07-21 07:51

By Zhao Lei(China Daily)

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Defense radar seeks out broken pipes and illegal basements to help city administrators

China's major developer of tactical missiles, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, is using its defense technologies to help city administrators and business sectors, according to engineers at the company.

Advanced radar technology, essential to a missile system, has been adapted to detect broken equipment up to 30 meters underground.

"Many underground gas and water pipes, electrical conduits, TV cables and sewers were made many years ago and are often in bad condition. Traditional examination and repair methods require digging up the roads they are buried in, inconveniencing residents and commuters," said Zhang Peng, a chief engineer at Beijing Huahang Radio Measurement Institute.

The institute is part of the company's Hiwing Technology Academy and specializes in missile radar and photoelectric equipment.

"Our ground penetrating radar is the perfect solution to the problem - it is able to detect and locate broken utilities without causing damage above ground," he said.

The equipment can also help city governments find cellars built without permission by residents looking to expand their living space, Zhang said.

He said local authorities in some large cities are concerned by safety hazards posed by these basements. The construction of one cellar resulted in a serious collapse in Beijing in January.

"It is now very difficult for authorities to inspect illicitly-built cellars in Beijing's sprawling maze of hutong, but with the ground penetrating radar, inspectors can easily detect them," Zhang said.

The device can also assist archaeological surveys, architectural safety checks and security clearance for important events, he added.

The Beijing Institute of Specialized Machinery, another research and development body under the corporation, has also transferred its expertise in military vehicles to serve spacecraft makers, bullet train producers and electrical transformer manufacturers.

Air-cushioned vehicles and Mecanum-wheeled, multidirectional platforms developed by the institute were used to transport Shenzhou spacecraft, the Tiangong-1 space lab and super-heavy electrical transformers, said Fu Yihao, assistant to the institute's director.

"In the past, moving large spacecraft parts or other equipment such as bullet train power units in an assembly facility consumed a lot of time and manual effort," Fu said. "My institute has abundant experience and expertise in developing equipment-carrying vehicles, so engineers decided to transfer this to serve civilian purposes."

Using the new-type vehicles will improve cargo safety, save labor and reduce fuel consumption and costs, he said.

The corporation has also taken advantage of its missile technology to develop a family of unmanned aircraft, ranging from piston-powered, low-speed drones to large, long-endurance turbofan-driven systems.

The company's unmanned aircraft wing, Hiwing Aviation General Equipment Co, has used its drones to help authorities perform various operations such as aerial mapping, resource surveys, pipeline and grid patrols, emergency response and forest protection, said Cai Yabang, a marketing manager at Hiwing.

Last year, the corporation earned more than 106 billion yuan ($17 billion) from its civilian products, according to statistics.

(China Daily 07/21/2015 page4)