Check Out the New Combat Drone That Can Fire a Sniper Rifle All By Itself

Thursday, 17 August 2017 - 10:15AM
Technology
Robotics
Thursday, 17 August 2017 - 10:15AM
Check Out the New Combat Drone That Can Fire a Sniper Rifle All By Itself
Image credit: Duke Robotics
We all laughed when people started duct-taping knives to Roombas, but the laughter has long since stopped: we're at the point now where remote-controlled UAVs can pack a lot of firepower, and personal drones are everywhere. And despite the old saying that war never changes, the advent of Duke Robotics' TIKAD, a miniature drone that is capable of accurately firing a sniper rifle, seems like a step toward a brave, deadly new world. Here's TIKAD in action:



On the one hand, it's hardly surprising that the military is looking to strap weapons onto glorified toy helicopters and send them into battle—this approach is a lot cheaper, both in terms of financial cost and human lives, than arming a real person, and it's also a far better approach than using one of the full-scale military drones that are more suited to bombings than assassinations. We can imagine a lot of situations where sneaking a hobbyist's small quadcopter drone into a difficult environment would be useful—whether hovering carefully before taking a shot at an opponent or simply providing quick and disposable covering fire for troops on the ground, it seems like a drone with a gun can go almost anywhere.

On the other hand, the limitations of a flying drone sniper are dead obvious to anyone who's ever tried to fly their own drone—as we explored in our interview with Chris Vo, drones still require a lot of human interaction and maintenance due to their low battery life, limited range, and relative fragility. Bad weather, high winds, or small malfunctions can turn a tiny flying Terminator into a piece of junk. On top of that, this drone has to deal with the recoil of a high-powered rifle. Duke's TIKAD has a solution to that last problem, however: it incorporates gyroscopic controls that allow it to stay hovering in place even when absorbing the shock of recoil so that it can stay lined up for another shot very quickly after its initial use.

In many ways, the TIKAD changes the game for military operations—it brings aerial cover into every firefight, along with almost unlimited mobility (as long as its battery lasts). It also means that falconry may become an important part of military units, as there's no better way to get rid of a pesky drone than with a trained bird of prey, and that's pretty cool in and of itself. If anti-drone eagles are good enough for London's Metropolitan Police, then they're definitely good enough for the US army.
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