A Chinese stealth drone has just completed its first test flight, flying for twenty minutes around an unidentified base somewhere in southwest China, the Associated Press reports. Pictures and videos of the drone, called Lijian or Sharp Sword, were released through China’s state media outlet the People’s Daily.

Chinese drone

Chinese drone inevitable

The exact capabilities of the drone aren’t known, but like other nations’ drone programs this gives China greater offensive capability for missile strikes and new surveillance options, and gives them more clout in the region. The stealth drone is similar to projects in the US, France, and Russia, according to some military observers. However, the drone appeared to be outfitted with Russian turbofan engines, which make it easier to detect.

Earlier this year, China bought long-range bombers that are capable of carrying cruise missiles with nuclear warheads and can fly missions as far as Hawaii, Zachary Keck of The Diplomat reports. There is also speculation that China is trying to develop a stealth bomber as well. Although there is still a big gap between US and Chinese military capabilities, China continues to make significant advances.

Drones could become big with private operators

The US has used drones extensively in dangerous parts of the world including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, not always with those countries’ permission, and drone strikes are a source of controversy. But drones are also becoming more common, and it was only a matter of time before China developed its own. In fact, drone traffic within the US is expected to increase so much that Congress has given the Federal Aviation Administration until September 2015 to set rules integrating drones into normal domestic air traffic. Within the next decade, there will probably be more private drones buzzing around than military ones (FAA rules permitting) raising a host of safety and privacy concerns that have yet to be seriously addressed.

“We recognize that the increasing use of unmanned aircraft does provide privacy concerns, and those concerns need to be addressed,” an FAA representative said. “But we’ve been integrating new technology into the airspace for more than 50 years, and we expect to be able to do the same thing with unmanned aircraft.”