Russia's Booming Drone Program Is Testing Stealth Models

After years behind the West, Russia is gearing up for autonomous war.


By now, drones are just as standard as planes and rifles for militaries around the globe. After lagging behind the West for years, Russia is now on the bleeding edge of drone technology, a development the world’s watched in vivid detail via reconnaissance drones and bombing campaigns on Syria.

News that Russia has begun testing a new breed of stealth drone at an Armenian military base is just the latest confirmation of Russia’s reinvestment in the technology.

The base is reportedly testing Navodchik-2 drones that are invisible from the ground, as well as new Orlan-10 reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles in its mountain training range. A spokesman told TAFF the drones “will boost the volume of tasks accomplished in high mountainous areas in Armenia in the interests of reconnaissance and special units by five times.”

America has its own stealth drone interests but has also focused on building relatively disposable “Gremlin” drones designed for only a handful of missions as a way to avoid the high costs of losing a fully-outfitted drone to enemy fire. And this September, researchers at the University of California-San Diego revealed a new way to make drones near-invisible in flight with a thin Teflon sheet cloaking device studded with dots of highly reflective ceramic that absorbs less light and makes the drone appear flat.

Of course without access to any of these drills we can only guess at what Russia’s military leaders are doing right now, but we can fantasize that the cloaking tests are at least as serious as the ones run by James T. Kirk. Imagination is fun.