At an annual military exposition in Moscow June 25, Russia unveiled a combat surveillance drone resembling a snowy owl.
The unmanned drone, which is capable of tracking an enemy, is difficult to detect due to its bird-like design and low noise emissions. Weighing eleven pounds, the drone is equipped with a laser that can assist Russian artillery with firing at specific locations. The drone can fly for up to 40 minutes and cover distances of up to twelve miles, the Moscow Times reported.
The biomimetic design aims to replicate the snowy owl, which is native to the region. The drone’s wingspan is slightly larger than the wingspan of a snowy owl, which on average measures five feet. A large portion of the drone’s “face” is taken up by a variety of gadgets that can give away the drone’s identity.
Russian defense minister Sergey Shoygu said the drone should “cultivate a sense of national pride” for young people, the Daily Mail reported.
The drone will likely be part of the heightened Russian military presence in the Arctic.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the Arctic as “the most important region that will provide for the future of Russia.”
The Arctic is believed to hold up to a quarter of all undiscovered oil and gas. In addition, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the mineral resources in the Arctic are worth $30 trillion, reports the Associated Press.
“This is a realistic, well-calculated, and concrete task,” Putin said, speaking on Russia’s elevated military operations in the Arctic, adding, “We need to make the Northern sea route safe and commercially feasible.”
Three new Russian military bases have recently been set up in the Arctic, which is increasingly seen as a geopolitical hotspot.
Russia currently possesses about 50 percent of the Arctic coastline. It also has a pending bid with the UN to claim 460,000 square miles of the Arctic shelf, according to CNN.
This is not the first drone built to resemble a bird, but it is the most advanced version of a bird drone that has been announced to the public.
In 2016, a drone appearing to resemble a bird and believed to be the property of the Somali government crashed in Mogadishu, Somalia, but it was less advanced than the Russian drone.
A French company retails a “bionic bird” drone device for $69.99 that weighs 10 grams, but it does not possess a camera, let alone a military-grade laser device.
The research division of the United States intelligence community, Iarpa, awarded a $4.8 million contract to D-Star Engineering in 2012 to develop a drone inspired by owls, but a finished product has not yet been announced to the public.
Russia also reported the development of a falcon drone at the military forum, saying the device is capable of emitting falcon-like sounds with a speaker.