Russia’s First Person View (FPV) drones continue to inflict severe casualties on Ukrainian equipment and troops, as videos released by the Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD) and clips circulating on Russian social media show.
In one video, the Russian drone crews hit Ukrainian soldiers in their trenches and bunkers. Another captures a Ukrainian US-made speedboat going zig-zag in erratic circles after being struck by a recently introduced Russian FPV kamikaze drone.
Ukraine and Russia, in general, have made inventive use of regular commercial UAVs by strapping them with explosives, but the latter has more domestically developed aircraft in its arsenal. Ukraine meanwhile relies largely on off-the-shelf purchases of leisure drones and retrofitting them for military purposes.
FPV drones broke onto the scene late last year, where the screen strapped to the operator’s forehead and covering his eyes allows for more agile and precise control of the drone, given the direct perspective from the aircraft. Both militaries have introduced dedicated training courses for small drone operations, including piloting, drone repair, software coding, electronic engineering, and general military science.
Drone Strikes Ukrainian Speed Boat
One video showed what Russian Telegram channels claimed was a Ghoul FPV strike on a Ukrainian speed boat, where the UAV closed it on the vessel as the latter was speeding down a river.
An overhead drone captured the strike, which showed the impact, causing a minor explosion. But the boat, a US-made Willard Sea Force 11M, started moving in a zig-zag manner, whether this was to avoid getting hit or disabling the controls following the strike. ‘Fennec Radar’ on X (formerly Twitter) claimed this was during an attempt to land troops across the Dnieper River.
The post on the Telegram channel said about the video: “A heavy UAF boat, Willard Sea Force 11M, American-made, was hit (by the Ghoul drone), then it began to move chaotically in circles. The crew received severe shrapnel wounds and concussion.” Willard boats have also been used to land Ukrainian troops on the Snake Island on the Black Sea.
An earlier EurAsian Times report discussed the Ghoul FPV, an independently funded Russian private industry effort. Developed by volunteers from the Ural region, it sports Do-It-Yourself (DIY) features and 3D-printed parts.
This is also the second such UAV to be developed by independent private initiatives, with the first being the Privet-82 loitering munition, as earlier reported by EurAsian Times. Ghoul can carry RPG-7 grenades, such as PG-7VL and RKG-3M hand-held anti-tank grenades, and high-explosive fragmentation charges to hit targets.
Russian FPV Kamikaze Drone Teams Strike Ukrainian Trenches
In a video released on October 18, the RuMoD showed how FPV crews operate on the frontline near Zaporizhzhia, engaging Ukrainian soldiers in their trenches and bunkers. A publicity video showed a drone operator recording Ukrainian soldiers heading inside a bunker. Another soldier straps an explosive to a quadcopter drone.
The patch on this second soldier’s right upper arm combat jacket suggests he is from a dedicated attack drone unit. A EurAsian Times report discussed the full-fledged Russian drone crews being operational on the frontlines, using a variety of FPV kamikaze drones, electronic warfare UAVs, and simple drones for surveillance and artillery fire correction.
The FPV drone operator could then be seen with the glasses over his eyes, followed by the subsequent footage from the attack drone’s perspective as it heads towards the bunker from the top. The overhead drone captures the UAV hitting the bunker’s roof.
The RuMoD statement said: “Airborne Troops units deploy unmanned aerial vehicles to eliminate AFU manpower clusters in shelters in forest belts near Verbovoye.” Verbovoye is near Zaporizhzhia in southeast Ukraine.
Russian Airborne Troops are usually behind the heavily defended, obstacle and tank traps-laden and mined defensive line, moving in small teams and conducting precision attacks on targets. Generally operating in groups of two to three, they are on All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV), firing anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) on clusters of Ukrainian troops trying to breach the defensive line in small teams.
The RuMoD added how they are now functioning as FPV kamikaze drone teams. “A crew, namely an operator and an assistant, moves to a designated area, where the kamikaze drone is prepared and launched. The operator, who controls the drone with special VR glasses, identifies the target. The assistant operator prepares a grenade, launches it, and adjusts the drone’s flight path. As a result, another enemy shelter is destroyed along with the personnel.”