Russia has developed a new combat surveillance drone disguised as a bird of prey, in this case an owl, The Moscow Times reported Tuesday.
The drone, a Technopolis Era project resembling a snowy owl choking on a mouthful of electronic equipment, appeared at the defense ministry’s annual military expo. The unmanned aerial vehicle is reportedly equipped with a laser that gives it the ability to guide artillery and laser-guided bombs.
Weighing only 5 kilograms, it can be carried and launched by one person, the developers told TASS, a Russian state-owned news agency. The company has also developed a falcon drone. It is said to be able to fly for up to 40 minutes and cover distances up to 20 kilometers, or 12 miles.
Creating drones that look like birds is a concept Russian unmanned aerial systems developers have been looking closely at for a while. The Zhukovsky-Gagarin Air Force Academy, for instance, presented a owl-shaped design last year.
“What’s interesting is that Russian designers are thinking creatively about UAV applications,” Samuel Bendett, a research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, told C4ISRNET at the time, explaining, “Biomimicry allows UAVs to operate in areas where a ‘regular’-looking UAV would have been sighted and eliminated.”
“In Russia’s part of Eurasia where hunting birds like owls, falcons and eagles are very common, a UAV that looks like a bird can become an invaluable ISR asset,” he added. “It can basically ‘hide’ in plain sight.” Up close, it is easy to see that the drone is, in fact, a machine, but at a distance, it becomes much harder to tell it apart from a bird in flight.
The stated purpose of the design showcased last year was to track tanks and other vehicles and then direct fire to those positions.
Drones with biomimetic designs, while strange, are not all that new.
A few years ago, a crude drone resembling a bird and believed to be the property of the Somali government crashed in Mogadishu. Robotic birds have been tested in Canada to scare birds away from airports. And China has designed recon drones that fly, move, and look like doves for domestic surveillance operations.
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