Russia Turns to Biomimicry in Attempt at Stealthy Drone

The new drone is supposed to resemble — from a distance, anyway — a snowy owl.

Whenever we talk about drones or unmanned aerial vehicle technology, we try to position these machines as having application potential for various industries. But let’s be real: the main purpose right now is for military operations.

This makes the drone’s ability to operate covertly extremely important. Now, you’re probably thinking we’re going to talk about stealth design, radar-jamming electronics or some new light-bending cloaking technology. Well, the Russian military anticipated such ridiculous thought processes and is instead going to blow your mind with … basically something that looks like a homemade Halloween costume. 

A drone was recently unveiled at the Russian defense ministry’s annual military expo in Moscow that Business Insider describes as looking like a “a snowy owl choking on a mouthful of electronic equipment.” 

The thought is that a drone looking like a bird will attract less attention and have greater potential to go unnoticed. The UAV is reportedly equipped with a laser that would be used to guide artillery and aircraft strikes. Also, weighing just over 11 pounds, it can be carried and launched by one person. The drone also features a flight time of 40 minutes and is capable of covering distances of about 12 miles. 

In borrowing what appears to be the same approach I used in convincing my brother that it was OK to trade a Robin Yount All-Star baseball card for 10 guys of slightly lesser notoriety, Center of Naval Analyses researcher Samuel Bendett was quoted as saying, "What's interesting is that Russian designers are thinking creatively about UAV applications. Biomimicry allows UAVs to operate in areas where a 'regular'-looking UAV would have been sighted and eliminated … a UAV that looks like a bird can become an invaluable asset." 

Apparently, from a distance the drone looks like a snowy owl.

So, the Russians are touting a drone that looks like a bird from a distance so it might go undetected until it gets close enough to pinpoint a target, but at that distance it becomes very obvious it’s not a bird and can be shot down. Be warned, America: apparently there’s also one that looks like a falcon.

— Jeff Reinke

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