When you look at the tactic of drone swarm warfare using these bad boys, suddenly the Battlefield changes in the Russians favor. -SF
The latest apocalyptic drone news out of Russia.
A new video from Russian arms maker United Instrument Manufacturing Corporation (UIMC) shows its aerial drone attacking targets with anti-tank rockets. The video debuted earlier this week at the Robotics of the Russian Armed Forces exhibition, along with a number of new drones. Since then it’s been making the rounds, maybe because it looks like a wild scaled-up version of the ramshackle handgun-firing quadcopter rigged up by a teenager. A closer look, though, reveals something much scarier.
The Russian multicopter can be controlled from a range of three miles and has a flight time of twenty minutes. It is armed with an unspecified rocket launcher, possibly the sort of “rocket flamethrower” weapon mounted on a drone that was promised earlier. The armed drone, made by the Systemprom subsidiary of UIMC (that itself is part of Russian arms giant ROSTEC) can work as part of a hunter-killer team.
“The flying robots were designed to observe distant objects, record video and still images including thermal imaging, transmit video in real time, deliver goods to a specified point, and destroy enemy targets on the battlefield,” says Sergey Skokov, Deputy CEO of UIMC in a press release.
A remote-controlled flying bazooka is a cool enough idea on its own. It gets around the infantryman’s problem of getting close enough to a tank to shoot at it without exposing himself to danger. Also, a drone can attack the thin armor on the tank’s side, rear, or top. The problem with a radio control link is that it can be jammed, and there are already anti-drone jamming systems on the market, but the Russians have thought of that: Once set loose, these drones do not need human control.
“These robots can navigate through the air without the support of an operator, choose their own routes, carry out reconnaissance work, and interact with other drones and robotic systems,” says Skokov.
This autonomy is not limited to flying around and taking pictures of pre-planned locations. These drones can fight on their own, too. “The attack multicopter can detect and destroy enemy targets, including tanks and armored vehicles.” While U.S. military has always insisted on having a “man in the loop” with armed drones, and having a human push the button to fire a deadly weapon, the Russians appear to have a more… relaxed approach to letting killer robots loose.
The Russian drone itself isnt’ that impressive. Judging from the video, it did not hit close enough to its target to damage it if it were a real tank. But this is only the start. Future versions are likely to be faster, smarter, more accurate, and may be cheap enough to deploy in large numbers. TheDJI S1000 which has similar specs costs around $5,000, compared to around $100,000 for a Hellfire anti-tank missile. Expect to see more like it in future.