ZD90: multirole UAV of Chinese origin imported in Saudi Arabia

Paolo Valpolini

Established in 2018, Team4 Entreprise is a Saudi contracting company that in recent years expanded its activities also in the defence domain. At the World Defense Show it exhibited the ZD90, a Class 1 multirole drone of Chinese origin, which resembles pretty much to the Rainbow CH-901 suicide drone, but according to the data sheet provided should be an evolution of the latter.

The ZD90 has a conventional layout and the overall system comes within a cylindrical shape with a 140 mm diameter in order to be launched from a tube of that calibre. The front warhead has full diameter, while the body is shaped in order to allow aerodynamic surfaces to be folded within shape limits; total length is 1.07 meters. The wings fold backwards on the top of the fuselage, while the horizontal tail planes are located under the fuselage and fold forward, the two vertical stabilisers also folding forward. The ZD 90 is powered by an electrical motor that activates a two-blade pushing propeller.

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The drone can reach a 50 m/s (180 km/h) maximum levelled flight speed, cruise speed being between 110 and 145 km/h, with an endurance of over one hour, range being of over 15 km which is that of the on-board data link. Maximum take-off weight is over 10 kg, while data provided indicate a maximum payload of more than 3 kg. The ZD90 can be launched at altitudes up to 5,000 meters, a key factor in some operational scenarios. The drone can be adapted to various uses and installed on different platforms such as vehicles, helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, surface or underwater craft, while it can obviously be used from a single-tube manportable launcher, the company claiming it is the first such system to be launched both from air and surface in China. To do so the launch system is quite flexible, as the ZD90 can be launched using a rocket booster, a chamber pressure launch system or a high-pressure nitrogen system, among others.

According to the company the ZD90 has completed over 2,000 missions flying more than 2,000 hours. As said the ZD90 is pretty flexible, and was used in October 2020 to observe typhoon Nangka that impacted the Hainan province in the south of the People’s Republic of China. As for military missions, it is mostly used as a loitering munition, no details being provided on the seeker used and on the guidance system.

According to information gathered at WDS 2022, the ZD90 has also swarming capabilities, 20 drones being capable to fly at the same time exchanging information thanks to an ad-hoc mesh network. Such a swarm can be controlled at 10 km distance the control station managing up to six video channels thanks to a link with a 16 Mbps bandwidth. No details on the level of autonomy were provided.

Photos by P. Valpolini