Air Weapons: Dealing With FPV UAVs


March 25, 2024: In Ukraine Russian armored vehicles, including tanks, are increasingly under attack by cheap FPV armed UAVs. Swarms of these UAVs are an omnipresent aerial threat to Russian armored vehicles and infantry on foot. Each FPV UAV costs less than a thousand dollars. The Ukrainian operators use the video camera on the UAV to see what is below and find targets. The FPV operators are several kilometers away to decide when the quadcopter FPV UAV will drop explosives on an armored vehicle, which has thinner armor on top, or infantry in the open or in trenches. To do so the UAV operators often operate in pairs with one flying behind the other and concentrating on the big picture while seeking a likely target. When such a target is found by the big picture UAV, the armed UAV is directed to the target. The two FPV UAV operators are usually in the same room or tent and can take control of new UAVs, which are lined up and brought outside for launch when needed. The big picture UAVs are often unarmed so they can spend more time in the air looking for targets.

The Ukrainians developed the FPV UAV in 2022 when only a few FPV UAV attacks were recorded. The Ukrainian Army was the first to appreciate the potential of FPV UAVs. By the summer of 2023 the Russian Army also began to use FPV drones in greater numbers. Since then the number of FPV UAV attacks have grown exponentially on both sides. As of early 2024, there were 3,917 Russian FPV UAV attacks and the Russians kept video records of each one. Only twelve percent of those attacks led to the destruction of the target, which could be a vehicle or group of infantry or even a sniper who was firing through a window from inside a building. In this case the armed FPV UAV would fly through the window and explode in the room the sniper was in. The only defense from this was having a nearby open door the sniper could run to or dive through as the FPV UAV approached. Sometimes that isn’t possible because the armed FPV UAV is coming down from above the window and then in. You don’t see those coming until it is too late. Many FPV UAV attacks miss completely or barely and inflict no injuries. All the FPV UAV activity does make sounds and troops in the vicinity fear the sounds and often feel quite anxious when those are around. While only twelve percent of FPV UAV attacks caused fatalities or serious injuries, another fifteen percent did some damage. Another twenty percent missed, or it was not possible to prove what happened.

Both sides now use the FPV UAVs but there are substantial differences on how the FPV UAVs are put to work in combat. The Ukrainians seek out high-value targets like armored vehicles, Electronic Warfare equipment, anti-aircraft systems and storage sites for munitions or other supplies. Russian trucks carrying supplies are another prime target.

In Russia the government sets up factories to build FPV UAVs. In Ukraine there are over 200 private companies, many of them small, producing UAVs of all types. So far Ukrainians have developed over 60 different types of UAVs that have been built and sent to the troops. Ukrainians have used crowdfunding to raise money for more UAVs and this has encouraged many skilled Ukrainians to build UAVs at home. Materials and components are widely available, and it doesn’t take long to learn how to assemble UAVs if you are eager to do it.

Individuals and larger firms have developed and built UAVs with more capabilities. Ukraine encourages citizens to develop and build UAVs. These homemade UAVs work and are sold cheaply or sent to the troops by friends and family at no cost to the soldiers. NATO armed forces have noticed the extensive use of FPV UAVs by both sides and large cumulative damage done and casualties caused by the UAVs. Warfare will never be the same.




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