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“They evolve”: Ukraine tests FPV drone featuring target detection, lock-on, and tracking system

Ukrainian “Wild Hornets” UAV engineers showcased an FPV drone with autonomous target detection, lock-on, and tracking, as Russia began using autonomous targeting FPV UAVs in February, while Ukraine started in March.
Screenshot from a video by Ukraine’s Wild Hornets drone developers, showing the machine view of an experimental FPV drone in the tracking mode after it has locked on a target. Source: X/wilendhornets
“They evolve”: Ukraine tests FPV drone featuring target detection, lock-on, and tracking system

The Ukrainian group of volunteer engineers ‘Wild Hornets’ demonstrated an FPV drone that boasts a target detection, lock-on, and tracking system, releasing the corresponding video on their X/Twitter account.

First-person-view (FPV) drones have reportedly destroyed more than two-thirds of Russian tanks in the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, as Ukrainian forces turn to this cost-effective weapon to counter Russian military might, according to a NATO official previously cited in the media.

The released footage displays the FPV view from a drone first in PREPARE mode, highlighting people’s silhouettes in green. When a person is locked in the sight’s crosshairs, TRACKING mode activates and the selected silhouette turns red. Additionally, the drone appears to react to objects thrown towards it by slightly altering its trajectory to evade them.

https://twitter.com/wilendhornets/status/1781736649958842556/

Ukrainian military news portal “Militarnyi” notes that most likely, the drone automatically tracks and selects targets, but the lock-on process can be manually performed.

Update:

The “Wild Hornets” put out an update on the testing of their FPV drone equipped with a neural network and target tracking capabilities.

As demonstrated in a video, the drone identifies battlefield targets like vehicles and infantry using a smart system, allowing the operator to select and capture targets with a remote control button.

As per Wild Hornets, this neural network software operates on a compact Ukrainian-made microcomputer integrated into the drone, which is assembled entirely from Ukrainian components such as flight and engine controllers, a video transmitter, camera, microcomputer, and an ELRS radio receiver.

Ukraine uses FPV drones with autonomous homing since March, Russia since January-February

The new video by Dyki Shershni shows not only locking on a target but also highlighting the available targets before locking in what is called the PREPARE mode in the footage, which hasn’t been demonstrated before.

Ukrainian FPV drones capable of locking on a target and subsequent autonomous homing became known in late March, when reports emerged that Ukraine began deploying FPV drones equipped with autonomous guidance systems for precise target engagement on their final run amid Russian electronic warfare, while Russia reportedly was also developing similar drone technology.

The March footage by soldiers from Ukraine’s 60th and 63rd Mechanized Brigades shows the drone’s guidance system precisely engaging a target and autonomously continuing to strike successfully despite communications disruption by Russian electronic warfare:

Volunteer Serhii Sternenko, actively fundraising for FPV drones for Ukrainian forces, noted that Russians have been developing the drone target-locking technology since at least February, underscoring Ukraine’s urgent need to accelerate its own development.

Meanwhile, on 6 January, Ukrainian military analyst Serhii Flesh reported intercepting a video link from a Russian FPV drone equipped with machine vision and automatic target acquisition, deployed in an unspecified front area. According to ISW, these drones are more accurate, less reliant on human pilots, and resistant to electronic warfare.

Russia’s tech for autonomous targeting FPV UAV

On 4 April 2024, Militarnyi reported that the commander of Ukraine’s ‘Magyar Birds’ unit conducted a detailed analysis of a captured Russian FPV drone with an automatic targeting system. This drone, belonging to Russia’s “Doomsday” unit, was lost in Kherson Oblast due to the effectiveness of Ukrainian electronic warfare systems.

Russian FPV drone with “machine vision” system. Source: Militarnyi

The Ukrainian military, identified by the call sign ‘Magyar,’ described the Russian drone’s detonation system, which extends from the initiation board along the device’s body to detonate the charge upon impact or remotely via the “machine vision” system. Notably, the drone features an Orange Pi 5 on-board computer and a customized antenna with a unique frequency that evades interference from common frontline “trench” stations.

“Magyar” points out that with a modest cost increase, a drone equipped with this module and necessary software addresses the primary failure cause—loss of control due to communication blackouts from “radio horizon” effects and enemy EW systems. Moreover, integrating artificial intelligence into drones significantly lowers training requirements for pilots, allowing even beginners to perform at the level of experienced operators by merely positioning the drone to capture the target, after which it operates autonomously.

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