A new video circulating online purports to show another way consumer drones are being repurposed to aid Ukraine’s defense against Russian troops – this one by dropping a grenade on a target with remarkable accuracy.
Ever since Ukraine’s Defense Ministry appealed to private pilots of consumer drones to put those craft to use in the nation’s defense effort against Russian invaders, accounts of small UAVs being flown for surveillance and emergency transport missions have multiplied. There have even been reports of larger store-bought craft being fitted with delivery systems to drop Molotov cocktails from on high. Most recently, however, Twitter user @CalibreObscura posted a short video purporting to show Ukraine citizens using a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) DJI drone dropping a grenade on a target 100 meters below.
Weaponization of consumer UAVs isn’t new, of course. The rigging of small drones to attack enemies has been adopted by Mexican drug cartels, extremist groups in Middle East conflicts, and by militias and separatist foes who battled one another in eastern Ukraine before the Russian invasion.
But if accurate, the @CalibreObscura footage might be the first indicating individual Ukrainian volunteers to the fight have begun deploying store-bought drones as attack assets.
“A local UA company developing a way to drop payloads onto Russian vehicles simply from COTS drones; here an F-1 grenade is dropped from a DJI Phantom 4 onto a car from 100m,” @CalibreObscura’s tweet reads. “Note that this is civilians developing this for defense, not the Ukrainian Army.”
Nothing in the 20-second video allows viewers to confirm what kind of drone is being flown, who the pilot is, what the circumstances are, or even if the grenade plummeting directly at the white vehicle beneath exploded upon impact. Though purely speculative, visual details of the surrounding era suggest the footage may have been taken during a trial attack in a remote area of a city, not in an active combat situation. A logo burned into the upper-righthand corner of the frame reads “Temerland Military Solutions” – the name of an Ukraine robotics company that apparently participated.
The film ends as the dropped payload nears the roof of the stationary target. Before it hits, the video cuts to a black-and-white photo of an aged Vladimir Lenin – a famous shot taken of the former Soviet leader after he’d been left infirm by strokes – with the Russian sentence, “This is totally screwed up, comrades” (translation sanitized for this family drone site).
Replies to the video range from surprise at the accuracy of the drop to respondents claiming they’d devised similar delivery systems for consumer drones of their own for around $15. When one poster notes what’s shown in the footage is small potatoes compared to improvised tech the Ukraine Army has developed since the invasion began, @CalibreObscura agrees – a bit.
“But that’s not the point,” @CalibreObscura retorts, “(T)his stuff you see in the video is a civilian initiative for the urban battlefield.”
Whether it’s authentic or not, the video probably won’t be the last shots from commercial UAV in Ukraine dropping charges. With consumer and enterprise drones flowing into Ukraine from around the world to help respond to emergencies created by Russian attackers – as well as for surveillance use in battle zones – it’s likely such craft will be altered to directly participate in fighting, especially as the situation in the country grows more dire by the day.