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Hollywood Drone Technology To Target Russian Tanks FPV loitering munition kamikaze drone

Kamikaze quadcopters, racing drones with explosive payloads, have become a feature of the war in Ukraine. Often known as FPV (First Person View) drones and piloted using video goggles, they are more challenging to fly than a regular quadcopter, but capable of diving into trenches, going through doorways or hatches or hitting moving vehicles. Most FPVs seen so far have been artisanal, built in small workshops by groups like Ukraine’s Escadrone, or by the soldiers themselves. Factory-made FPV drones are on the way for both sides. The most unusual type uses technology developed for the movie industry.

Earlier this month, U.S. company Red Cat Holdings announced an order for 200 FPV drones for Ukraine. The company is already well known for Golden Eagle reconnaissance quadcopters developed for the U.S, Army by its subsidiary Teal under the Blue sUAS initiative as an alternative to Chinese-made consumer drones. Some Golden Eagles are already operating in Ukraine, but the military FPV drone is a new development.

A Red Cat spokesman told Forbes that they were not able to give the name of the new drone. While it is not described as being, like the racing drones turned into kamikazes, the Red Cat FPV is likely to be weaponized with the addition of a warhead.

“The FPV drones have a carrying capacity of up to two pounds, depending on range,” the spokesman told Forbes.

The spokesman said the drone’s maximum range is ten kilometers, and that a key feature is its ability to operate in a GPS-jammed environment. This is important because GPS jamming and spoofing have been bringing down increasing numbers of quadcopters in recent months.

Russia is also trying to step up its FPV game. While their current FPV kamikazes are of the kitchen-table variety. At the drone makers Svyaz Spetszaschita unveiled a new FPV kamikaze known as Fighter 40 at the HeliRussia annual aero expo in Moscow this week. The makers claim this drone is already being used in Ukraine.

Svyaz Spetszaschita make drones for industrial, agricultural and security use, but their website does not mention military projects. Fighter-40 is a carries a 5-pound payload to a range of 12 km. According to the makers it is easier and more reliable to operate “with one foot in the mud” than modified consumer drones.

There are no indications how many Fighter-40s have been ordered or when they might be delivered.

But perhaps the most advanced new FPV drone headed to Ukraine is the K8 from Cyberlux, which was announced as part of a package of security assistance back in February. The K8 drone was a complete unknown, and does not appear on the company’s list of their drones. What we do know is that Cyberlux CEO Michael Schmidt demonstrated the K8 to the Ukrainian military and they liked it.

We also know that Cyberlux are leading maker of a class of commercial drones known as cinewhoops. These are agile FPV drones which typically have shrouded or ducted rotors so they can fly safely indoors and through the narrowest of gaps. Software allows them to fly exceptionally smoothly to and take video which would otherwise be impossible.

The 90-second short Right Up Our Alley by jaybyrdfilms gives some idea of what they can do. Hollywood loves cinewhoops for their ability to get close to fast-moving action; this drone featurette shows how an FPV drone captured spectacular footage for the Michael Bay action flick Ambulance.

The DJI Avata has led a wave of new low-cost cinewhoop drones.

“It has awesome maneuverability though, letting you fly in places you’d never take another drone. We took it around handball players during a practice, between our legs, through the small gap in a sign, around a castle rooftop and indoors with people and fragile things around,” wrote Steve Dent in a review of the Avata for Engadget. “It’s also tough. We had a number of crashes that would have killed an open-prop drone.”

We do not know the specifications for the K8. But bearing in mind Cyberlux’s field of expertise, it is likely to be a highly maneuverable cinewhoop-style drone able to negotiate cluttered environments with ease. It may be able to fly through thick woodland that would challenge other drones, and to fly into buildings and explore them in detail. This would clearly have major application both in urban combat and in clearing out Russian trenches and dugouts, saving lives by going in ahead of soldiers. It may simply or initially be a scout, but like other FPV drones, it may end up carrying a bombload like the Israeli Lanius urban seek-and-destroy quadcopter.

The advantage of existing FPV quadcopters has been low cost – Escadrone’s are made from parts costing less than $500 – and ease of access. If mass production in factories can produce drones which are even cheaper and more effective, then the 50,000 FPVs reportedly stockpiled by Ukraine may be the tip of the iceberg.

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Written by Townreels


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