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Russia Investing Heavily into Arctic Drones

Defense

Russia Investing Heavily into Arctic Drones

According to Russian state media reports defense labs and aircraft manufacturers have been working on Arctic-themed drone-engineering and UAV projects that can patrol the top of the world for days on end.

Specialists of the Advanced Research Foundation (FPI) are working to create unmanned aerial vehicles for use in the Arctic, which can be in flight up to four days. TASS released a statement,”…the aircraft of increased autonomy should ensure the performance of functional tasks in non-stop flight at high latitudes with a duration of at least four days,.” A press release from the FPI also noted that the project is currently conducting a number of projects related to unmanned systems: the creation of new materials, electronic component base, engines, payloads and efficient control algorithms, information collection and processing.

Additionally, the FPI is developing drones demonstrators of vertical and ultra short takeoff and landing. “Here we are talking about the development of technologies that provide increased energy efficiency of the take-off and landing cycle,” FPI press service said. The Russian government is also funding university-level research into UAVs that can operate in the harsh Arctic climate.

  • In December, the Kalashnikov Design Bureau announced the ZALA 421-08M and ZALA 421-16E drones for Arctic surveillance. Built to fly for up to 250 minutes in sub-zero temperatures, the drones carry a navigation system specially designed to work without GPS or its Russian equivalent GLONASS. 
  • The Russian Helicopters Holding is currently conducting tests of the VRT300, a helicopter-style UAV intended to do reconnaissance or haul small cargo loads for either military or civil fleets in new northern sea routes.
  • Other drones may eventually be modified for Arctic service. A January test flight of the 20-ton Ohotnik long-range combat UAVnear Novosibirsk raised eyebrows because it took place in  10-degree Fahrenheit (-12° C) weather. The military-affiliated ZvezdaWeekly speculated that more Arctic testing may be on the way. 
  • Another potential Arctic UAV is the Triada tiltrotor, a vertical-takeoff, horizontal-landing aircraft that can fly from 80 to 160 kilometers in temperatures down to -58 Fahrenheit and observe and film objects out to five kilometers, Zvezda Weekly wrote.

The drones of the ZALA Arctic series will be capable of solving the tasks of civil and military purposes in conducting research in the Arctic zone, ensuring the safety of maritime navigation, round-the-clock protection of perimeters, and organizing a complete system for tracking the Arctic coast and territorial waters.

There have also been reports that the Russian military is already practicing the use of drones in Arctic conditions. The Guards Tank Army of the Western Military District trained with Eleron-3 and Orlan-10 UAVs at low winter temperatures last month. In December 2018, soldiers in the Central Military District used the Granat-4 UAV while training near Novosibirsk. Other regiments near Tuva, also in southern Siberia, were training with the Orlan-10 around the same time.  

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