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Ukraine Got New Winged FPV Drone With Longer Range and Durability, to Spend Less HIMARS Rockets

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The winged FPV drone, called Darts / Photo credit: Serhii Sternenko
The winged FPV drone, called Darts / Photo credit: Serhii Sternenko

The new weapon is essentially a low-tech loitering munition but tailored for mass production in large volumes

Ukrainian Defense Forces operate the Darts unmanned aerial vehicle, a type of explosive weapon kept secret until recently. The new drone became known to the russians first who got hit with this weapon and collected some debris, now the details are revealed by Serhii Sternenko, a Ukrainian volunteer and organizer of crowdfunding campaigns for procurement military supplies for the army.

Sternenko calls the development an "FPV wing," the exact operational range is not disclosed but it's mentioned to be "several times" farther than any copter-type FPV drone known to date.

Read more: Ukrainian Drones Target Two russian Oil Refineries in Overnight Attacks

A Darts carries 3+ kilograms of explosive and can be useful for eliminating high-priority targets in the operational depth, i.e. beyond the forward line of enemy troops. No less important, in that way, it can supplement M142 HIMARS rockets and save some of the expensive ammunition for the American artillery rockets system, he notes.

The video below is an episode of combat use of this drone against russian equipment.

Based on data from several fundraisers for procurement of these UAVs, we can roughly estimate the price for each unit: USD 1,170 to 1,330. For reference, the estimated cost of a single rocket for HIMARS is around $223,000. One Darts system consists of 10 explosive drones and equipment which varies depending on the configuration.

Sternenko also notes it would be inappropriate to call Darts a Ukrainian analog to a Lancet, in contrast to the recent media reports about such weapons being developed in Ukraine. "It's something different, with a different principle behind the controls and guidance. And most importantly, it's much cheaper." According to The Telegraph, a single Lancet in its standard configuration costs about $35,000 to produce.

Ukrainian volunteer Orest Kryshtafovych next to a Darts winged FPV drone
Ukrainian volunteer Orest Kryshtafovych next to a Darts winged FPV drone / Photo credit: UAteam charity fund

Unlike the loitering munitions used against strategic targets, the Darts features a simple and conventional layout, with a constant cord along the wing and one motor for the propeller. The miniature Foxeer camera is planted in the wing, and apparently, it can rotate along one axis looking forward or down below.

The russians who had encountered the Darts in action called it "impossible to shoot down." A military blogger shared an episode told by russian soldiers who tried to take one such UAV down with rifles and non-lethal pistols. The drones, visually similar to the new Ukrainian weapon, came in a swarm of five. They note that the winged FPV is a bit slower than the more common rotor-powered quadcopters. The blogger assumes that Ukrainians use a mobile relay to extend the operational range of the Darts and notes that all the internals of the drone are the same as in copter-type FPVs.

One of the winged explosive drones downed by russian forces in Ukraine, most probably the Darts winged FPV
One of the winged explosive drones downed by russian forces in Ukraine, most probably the Darts winged FPV / Photo source: russian social media
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