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Simple, fast, deadly: what are Shrike FPV drones, which Ukraine produces by thousands?

20 May, 2024 Monday
13:10

Regardless of what tasks Ukrainian defenders are performing - defending their positions or going on the offensive - they constantly need a large number of drones. In addition to expensive and powerful UAVs, soldiers need FPV drones, which are called a relatively cheap but effective means of destruction. Ukrainian developments in this area include Molfar, Kolibri, Shrike, and others

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Briefly about what's in the text:

  • What are Shrike drones and how did they become known?
  • How many Shrike drones are produced in Ukraine?
  • American roots of Shrike drones
  • Technical characteristics of the Shrike drone
  • What else you should know about Shrike

What are Shrike drones and how did they become known?

The name Shrike means small birds from the sparrow family, weighing 25-100 grams. Some of them prick their victims on plant thorns. In addition, the name Shrike was used by a character in Dan Simmons' epic fantasy novel Songs of Hyperion. It is a partly organic, partly mechanical creature that brutally kills everyone who comes into its domain.

The media started talking about Shrikes in the fall of 2023. At that time, Ukraine's Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov said that more than 1,500 Shrike FPV drones had been transferred to the Donetsk region. According to the minister, they were purchased at the expense of the Drone Army state program.

"The copters will help our soldiers keep the defense and effectively hit Russian positions and equipment. The ‘kamikaze’ drones are produced by a Ukrainian defense-tech startup. One drone costs only a few hundred dollars, but the results will unpleasantly surprise the occupiers and delight us in weekly reports from the shock companies," Fedorov wrote.

The website of the Drone Army government organization noted at the time that although the ‘shrikes’ cost only a few hundred dollars, the results of their work were impressive.

"And Shrike ‘kamikaze’ drones are fast and easy to use, hitting the target, destroying the occupiers' positions and equipment. So each of them will help the fighters to turn even more of the Russian equipment into scrap metal," the Drone Army wrote.

How many Shrike drones are produced in Ukraine?

Information about the scale of production of Shrikes has become publicly available thanks to the light hand of Josep Borrell. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy visited a classified enterprise in Ukraine that produces drones for the military.

Photo: Josep Borrell

"Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see with my own eyes the Ukrainian ingenuity," the Militarnyi portal quoted the European official as saying. Borrell also noted that, in his opinion, Ukraine has the potential to become a major technological center.

The company that Borrell visited has established production of hundreds of drones per day. And the published photos show that the workers are assembling hundreds of Shrike FPV drones.

"Quadcopters are manufactured as part of the Drone Army', which provides for their systematic purchase, repair, and training courses for relevant specialists," Militarnyi wrote.

Overall, Ukraine has stated that it plans to produce 1 million FPV drones in 2024.

American roots of Shrike drones

Although, according to official reports, the Shrikes are produced by a Ukrainian startup, it is most likely that the drones were developed in the United States. Drones with the same name were introduced in 2011 by AeroVironment. This is the same company that manufactured Switchblade drones in California and supplied them to Ukraine.

Back then, the Americans presented the Shrike as a man-portable vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL Mav) drone. The device was developed by order of the US Joint Special Operations Command.

"It is a small, portable, reliable and rugged unmanned aerial vehicle platform designed for day and night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) on the front line," the statement says.

Photo: Mykhailo Fedorov

"Shrike is not just capable of hovering over objects with a high-resolution video camera for more than 40 minutes. Its latest technology allows it to operate as a surveillance camera for several hours," said Tom Herring, Vice President of AeroVironment.

Although the Americans developed drones for ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance), it is not surprising that Fedorov speaks of Shrikes as attack drones. The same drones can be adapted to other combat missions by changing the payload.

In any case, we are talking about FPV drones (first person view). The drones are controlled through special glasses, and the operator sees the video of the area from the drone in real time, like a pilot sitting inside. Such drones, equipped with high-resolution cameras, conduct high-quality reconnaissance. Or they are armed with explosives and, being fast and maneuverable, they strike vehicles, even flying into windows or hatches.

Ukrainian Shrikes can be ordered online. Companies offer them to military units and subdivisions. They describe the product as an FPV drone with target capture, autonomous flight mode, and manual control. The specified production time is 10 days.

Technical characteristics of the Shrike drone

Since Ukrainians are currently avoiding disclosing drone data other than the price of several hundred dollars, we have to focus on the characteristics of the UAVs.

Shrike from the American company AeroVironment.

  • Length - 90 cm,
  • Weight - 2.5 kg,
  • Speed - 55 km/h,
  • Range - 5 km of line of sight, with the possibility of relaying to increase the radius,
  • Operating time - 40+ minutes.

Photo: Mykhailo Fedorov

What else you should know about Shrike

In 2018, Shrike manufacturers announced plans to integrate Shrike 2 drones with Stryker armored vehicles. It was assumed that Shrike 2 would save battery power and thus stay in the air longer. At the time, this modification was still under development, so the new system was tested with RQ-20 Puma and Switchblade vehicles.

During the tests, the system was installed on an armored repair and recovery vehicle, adding one more person to the armored vehicle crew - the operator. Later, the plan was to eliminate the need for a separate operator by integrating the control system into onboard equipment.

"The use of reconnaissance drones on armored vehicles will significantly increase crew awareness. In addition, drones can be used to monitor target destruction and adjust fire," FlightGlobal wrote.

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