In recent years, many videos of recreational drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) fitted with weapons have abounded on YouTube. A recent video shows an unmanned aerial interceptor vehicle built around an AK-47 rifle shooting a model airplane.
The student design bureau of Aviation Modeling (SBK-AM) of the Moscow Aviation Institute is at the root of this armed UAV created in 2016, then granted to the Almaz-Antey defence corporation to continue its development. It can take off and land vertically and then fly horizontally thanks to its two rotors. This original student invention is only aimed to counter malicious drones according to the defence company. Designed in the same vein of countering drones, another Russian initiative from the defence company Mikran has to be underlined. Named Carnivora and able to evolve in a denied environment, it can transport several types of weapons; fragmentation and high-explosive ammunition in particular.
Nevertheless, as demonstrated by ISIS in Syria, the possibility of diverting consumer drones from their initial use is significant and reminds us that armed drones can be terrifying deadly devices if they fall into the wrong hands.
Indeed, another video published on YouTube hit the headlines in the US in 2015. This 14-second footage shows a four-propeller drone equipped with a semiautomatic handgun firing rounds. Its creator was an 18 year-old man from Connecticut. Attracting the anger of the FAA, he faced a trial to determine whether or not an armed drone was legal. At the moment, there is no federal legislation to rule on armed drone.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Wisconsin, Maine and Virginia explicitly banned the use of weaponized drones as of 2017 in the US. It’s not for lack of trying of the part of Representative of Texas, Mr. Burgess. But four times its bill called the No Armed Drones Act (NADA Act) remained blocked at the stage of introduction into the House of Representatives (2012, 2013, 2015, and 2017).
The main gap between a professionally manufactured armed UAV and a hobbyist one is about compensating for recoil. The US Duke Robotics quadcopter killer drone called Tikad uses an efficient robotic stabilizer. To such an extent that company is in talks to supply the Israeli Special Forces , according to Defense One.
Remotely operated, it can carry a sniper rifle, a grenade launcher or a machine gun. The aim claimed by the company is to have “no boots on the ground”… This invention has notably been awarded the top prize at the Combating Terrorism Technology Conference sponsored by the United States Defense Department’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO).
In addition, China is also in the race for the most advanced armed drone. The Blowfish A2 UAV of Ziyan is reportedly able to fly autonomously to targets and shoot them down without human intervention thanks to facial recognition! Depending on the “customer’s preferences”, the defence company offers to equip the Blowfish A2 with missiles or machine guns.
Other ways to arm drones are being developed. The Russian company Kalashnikov unveiled in February 2019 its kamikaze drone that will be widely and cheaply available. The officially named KUB-UAV will mark “a step toward a completely new form of combat,” said Sergey Chemezov, chairman of Russia’s state-owned Rostec arms manufacturer. It can fly for 30 minutes, reach a speed of 130 km/h and carry almost 3 kg of explosives, according to a news release.
On the Belarusian side, a quadcopter drone has been equipped with a rocket launcher. In the meantime, the Texas firm Chaotic Moon has created a drone fitted with a Taser capable of delivering 80,000 volts of electricity through a wired dart, reported the BBC.
Thus, commercial drones available for purchase by private individuals have been the subject of much creativity. While their main objective is to innovate or counter other drones, there is legitimate fear of them being potentially misused. In the wrong hands, an individual could shoot his neighbour or people in a gathering.
Some non-State actors could use them as a cheap means for striking adversaries, or destabilize a country. More regulations and law enforcement will be required at some point, eventually including industry input to prevent such “retrofits”.
Written by ADIT – The Bulletin and republished with permission.