A video posted on Twitter captures an astonishingly accurate aerial drop of a Ukraine bomb on a Russian vehicle – apparently right through the open sunroof – by what the uploader claims is a modified DJI Phantom 3 drone.
Set to intentionally incongruous lighthearted music, the video – shot by the UAV’s camera – shows a Russian fighter scrambling to get inside a vehicle already occupied by at least one other person. As he does, the Ukraine drone drops a grenade that appears to vanish into the windowless sunroof as the Russian driver starts to back out. The munition immediately explodes inside the car, which continues rolling backward despite the presumedly grave injuries of its occupants.
In subsequent tweets, uploader @IanMatveev identifies the Ukraine drone used in the strike on the Russian vehicle as “apparently” a DJI Phantom 3, rather than a Mavic 3 he’d seen mentioned elsewhere.
“The Ukrainians have equipped drones with mechanisms for dropping small grenades and are attacking individual groups of Russian soldiers from the air,” read the texts in the thread, which have been translated from Russian. “Who is the carrier? Apparently a cheap custom drone. They write about the Mavic 3 (left), but rather it is the Phantom 3 (right) – it is more load-bearing. And the weight of the grenade is 350 grams, nevertheless.”
(As with the longer YouTube version of the video linked below, viewers should be aware of the brutal nature of the footage.)
As with most partisan information flowing from the conflict – including some official declarations – neither the video nor the descriptions were independently verified as accurate. If authentic, however, it would serve as another example of how deployment of consumer drones has been crucial in defending Ukraine against invading Russian troops. Their success in confounding Moscow’s far larger and better-equipped army is even causing planners to reconsider how future wars will be waged.
Since Ukraine’s Defense Ministry first issued an appeal to citizens to donate or fly their drones to repel Russian soldiers on February 26, countless consumer craft have been mobilized by individual Ukrainians, or provided by foreign supporters and growing numbers of manufacturers abroad.
Those craft – especially drones supplied by Western companies – have been intended for use by Ukraine emergency and first responder workers to access and treat people trapped and injured in Russian strikes.
Most consumer UAVs, however, have been deployed for activity directly in the conflict. That has included aerial surveillance of enemy positions, being tricked out to drop Molotov cocktails, or adapted to deliver munition strikes of the kind in the recent video.
“For the attack, a modified VOG-17 grenade from an AG-17 grenade launcher is used. A shank and a front part are printed on a 3D printer,” @IanMatveev explained in his accompanying tweets. “Homemade reset mechanism provides high accuracy – see the video. And online shooting allows, among other things, to conduct reconnaissance. It turns out a cheap and effective weapon against individual soldiers.”
Indeed, consumer UAV flown by Ukraine defenders against Russian forces have proven so potent that the world’s largest consumer and enterprise drone maker, DJI, recently announced it would suspend sales of the products in both countries. Given the abundance of those vehicles in nations that continue providing them to Ukraine, however, it’s unlikely the move will alleviate the unexpected threat Russia continues encountering from above.