In these days a video has gone viral (you can see it at the end of this article) in which a Russian drone Orlan 10 used in the Ukrainian war is disassembled
It is not clear if it is an old version of the drone or it is of current production but what you see gives a feeling of total botched; it looks like a radio controlled aircraft made by amateurs and not a military vehicle intended for high intensity scenarios.
Among others, after watching the video several times, several observations can be made.
- In all messages it is important to take care of the form and the Ukrainians are proving to be artists when it comes to social networking. The person in charge of making the video is not just any soldier, they have chosen a soldier who used to be a youtuber; even if he used to make videos about cars, you can tell he knows what he is doing.
- The first reaction of surprise comes when we see the drone concept itself: it is not an advanced observer that transmits the images to the operator but records the images on an SD card that will be downloaded when the device returns to the base. Militarily this is far less useful because, at the speed of modern warfare, by the time the operator has the information, the enemies will already be somewhere else.
- The second surprise is to see that for the observation a commercial camera attached with Velcro has been used; in a military drone one expects micro cameras with advanced chips but never a reflex camera with the “auto” mode fixed with silicone. From there you start to understand everything, seeing that the fuel tank is a plastic bottle like a soda bottle, which is how amateurs usually mount their devices. It can almost be interpreted as survival engineering: the technician was told he had to make a device that would fly and take pictures for less than three thousand dollars and the man did what he could within the deadlines set so as not to lose his job. Perhaps, to complete the Russian high-tech parade, he was awarded a medal in a ceremony with a brass band and parades with hundreds of soldiers, Soviet style.
- The final surprise comes when we see that all the electronic components are manufactured by foreign companies and that the supposed Russian technology is reduced to a shoddy assembly of devices whose design can be done by any Western amateur at home with Youtube tutorials and three thousand dollars. This means that a trade embargo of a few months will reduce to zero the Russian capacity to manufacture modern military equipment; of course, except for the United States, this is something that could happen to any country nowadays, but nobody would think of challenging the United States as a global power if they do not have a powerful and advanced industry behind them.
- It could be argued, however, that if the drone is cheap and does its job, there is no need to get your hands over your head but the fact is that its selling price is between 90,000 and 120,000 dollars depending on the versions. This is already a ridiculous price but it is not unreasonable if you understand the stratospheric levels of corruption that corrode the Russian administration and armed forces: from the order to execute a $100,000 reconnaissance drone with domestic technology to the $3,000 device seen in the video, there is a lot of thefts along the way. Where do you think the oligarchs’ yachts come from?
If the dismal battlefield results harvested by Russian troops had already brought their defense industry into disrepute, the realization that there is no advanced Russian-made technology is the final blow to exports of military equipment, which until now was the only industry that seemed (we must emphasize seemed) to work for the heirs of the Soviet Union. That gap, no doubt, will be quickly filled by the Chinese military industry (or maybe even by the Turkish one).
In this Twitter thread the electronic components of the drone are revealed: