Russian Soldiers Seen Using VR-Controlled Kamikaze Drones
Russia's Ministry of Defense has issued a boast about the technology of new drones it has for use in its invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow has relied on Iranian-made Shahed-136 UAVs, known as "kamikaze drones" for its air attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure over the last few months. However, British defense officials said in February that Moscow had likely "exhausted" its numbers of the drones and "will probably seek additional supplies.''
On Thursday, the Russian MOD released video that it said showed paratroopers using, "Boomerang VR (Virtual Reality) headset-controlled kamikaze drones."
"The Airborne Force's UAV units actively employ Boomerang small-size FPV (first person view) quadcopters to storm Ukrainian army positions," said the post, which was also reported by the state news agency Tass.
The Russian Ministry of Defense disclosed no information about who was making or supplying the drones.
An operator controls the device using a VR headset to search for and hit a target. An assistant operator launches the drone and tracks its flight direction to help guide the operator.
The Russian MOD said it had four rotors, four small engines and a large storage battery. Highly maneuverable, the UAV is said to travel at up to 110 miles per hour and hit moving targets, as well as troops in dugouts and special shelters.
"As its main feature, the kamikaze drone carries a special container filled with striking elements and stuffed with explosives and a detonator," Tass reported.
Because it did not have a satellite communication module, "the anti-drone gun is powerless against it," according to the ministry, which said they can be steered at "a minimal altitude just above tree tops."
Newsweek has contacted the Ukrainian Defense Ministry for comment.
Abishur Prakash, a co-founder and geopolitical futurist at the Toronto-based Center for Innovating the Future, said that VR was a modern technology entering the war in Ukraine which might fall under global scrutiny.
"The West might be critical of companies who are investing in firms supplying Russia with drones or VR-systems," he told Newsweek. "Meanwhile, there could be a big opportunity for firms in China and Iran—or even other nations in Asia and the Middle East—to supply the hunger for new tech, drawing these nations into the war in deeper ways."
He said that VR that might be used by Russia and Ukraine could also be used to predict social unrest in certain areas. "For now, VR is being used to direct drones but soon, its use could expand," he said.
Moscow has accused Kyiv of using drones to strike into Russian territory and there has been a recent spate of what Russian media have dubbed "unidentified flying objects," or UFOs, which have been neither directly claimed nor denied by Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has expressed concern that Moscow is looking to China to source drones similar to the Shahed-136s and that Beijing may soon give "lethal support" to Russia's war effort. China has rejected the claims.