A bit over a week ago, we discussed a patent filed by Russian arms manufacturer Almaz-Antey in 2018 for what appeared to be a drone built around an AK-47 platform. The patent was first brought to much of the world’s attention thanks to a tweet from defense journalist Steve Trimble.
Russian air defense manufacturer Almaz-Antey last year patented a small UAV built around what looks like a 7.62mm Kalashnikov rifle. pic.twitter.com/fq7TNGn7eW
— Steve Trimble (@TheDEWLine) March 12, 2019
After examining the images that accompanied the patent, it did indeed appear that the drone was built around housing the functional portion of an AK style rifle, though, it’s important to note, the platform was not built for a 7.62x39mm rifle as we stated. An informed Twitter user by the name of Isaac Lancaster first brought it to our attention that the drone was built to carry an AK style, semiautomatic shotgun (a Vepr-12), and new footage of the drone in action confirms his assertion.
As we assumed from the images, the two bulbs sticking out of the large stabilizing fins do house electric motors with props that were not shown in the patent. In the video, the drone can be seen taking off vertically before switching to horizontal flight and engaging different targets.
If you watch the video in its entirety, you’ll first see the drone successfully shoot down a balloon followed by a three-minute long dog fight with a slow-moving hobby-style remote control airplane. The shotgun-drone makes a number of passes, missing the hobby plane with repeated shots, before finally (apparently) hitting it during a split second that the camera is out of focus. You’re left to assume the hobby plane was hit as it spirals to the ground.
Other footage of the system has also surfaced online, including a video of a man firing the shotgun housed inside the drone–showing that the weapon’s recoil is significant and making the drone’s ability to manage the gunfire fairly impressive.
So, has this footage forced me to reassess how useless this drone platform really is? Sadly, no. While the drone did manage the weapon’s recoil well, these videos still demonstrated a few conspicuous shortcomings despite the near-perfect test circumstances it was operating in.
First, it seemed apparent throughout the video that the drone was being piloted by a ground operator that seems to be relying on his own line of sight to manage the aircraft. If that’s the case, it would mean that this drone has no on board targeting apparatus or potentially even cameras for the operator to use while piloting this low-budget UCAV anywhere other than an open airfield without any need for cover. Without a system that allows the operator to hide behind cover and maintain control without line-of-sight with the target, the potential applications for this drone are somewhere between few and none.
It also seemed to show that even in the best of conditions against a slow moving and predictable target, this drone had to take multiple passes before scoring what can only loosely be called a hit. If the opponent were an actual military drone with an operator that didn’t want to see it blown out of the sky, it doesn’t seem as though this shotgun with wings could do little to prevent its escape.
While there are elements of this concept that could prove to have further applications (like Russia’s recent shift toward VTOL drones), a flying remote-controlled shotgun still appears to be an exercise in novelty, rather than practicality.
Image courtesy of YouTube