China has started commercial production of its CH-5 Rainbow drone, touted to be a rival to the US unmanned aerial vehicle MQ-9 Reaper, which could attack targets on the ground. Mr Wang Song, an associate professor with the school of aeronautic science and engineering at China’s Beihang University, said the first flight of a mass-produced CH-5 Rainbow, a heavy military drone last week meant signals China’s readiness to export it. He said the drone equals that of the US General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, but at around half the cost. However, Mr Wang said the Chinese drone had a weakness compared to its American counterparts. The Reaper can climb to a height of between 12,000 and 15,000 metres. This allows the US drone to stay above the reach of most ground fire.“The CH-5, on the other hand, cannot operate at more than 9,000 metres, which makes it vulnerable to some anti-aircraft weaponry,” Mr Wang was quoted as saying by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post today.The limited ceiling of the Rainbow is a by-product of its relatively weak engine, according to Mr Wang, who noted that China still lagged behind the West in aircraft engine technology. “This is in fact the weakness of all China-made aeroplanes,” he said.United States Reaper, or Predator B, was the world’s first unmanned aerial vehicle that could attack targets on the ground. At $16.9 million, it is the world’s most expensive drone. “The CH-5 may come in at less than half of the price,” Wang said. State-run CGTN TV also showed a video of the CH-5 destroying targets.