In 2015, a drone was modified to include a semi-automatic handgun, which sparked an investigation by US Federal Aviation Administration after four shots were fired from the gun perched on the drone. The video of this incident went viral and raised a lot of concerns, but many knew that it was only a matter of time before drones would be ready for use in combat.
Earlier this year, a Russian drone carrying a grenade infiltrated an ammunition site in Ukraine and set off an explosion which caused a huge loss of about a billion dollars. This episode showed that drones were truly ready for combat use.
A Florida-based company Duke Robotics has developed a weapon-bearing drone called TIKAD. The drone can be equipped to carry different military weapons including a sniper rifle, a machine gun or a grenade launcher. The drone represents a new tactical capability and will be armed to do a soldier’s job. But how effective can these “robotic soldiers” be?
An early prototype of TIKAD was successfully deployed to take out a target in 2015 by the Israeli military. Since then, drones have been undergoing tests and refinements to enhance their capabilities and optimize their features.
Co-founder of Dukes Robotics, Raziel Atuar stated in an interview with Defense One, that the device can carry and fire weapons that weigh up to 22lb. However, a human operator still needs to control the drone and weapons.
Called ‘The Future Soldier’, TIKAD will be used to save lives and also to provide aerial support for troops in combat. Raziel Atuar was a former Special Mission Unit commander in the Israeli Defense Force and because of his experience, was inspired to develop this drone to help mitigate the difficulties faced when battling terrorists that operate in civilian populations.
As a former Special Mission Unit commander, he has been on many battlefields and has witnessed first-hand the needs of troops and the kind of support they require.
The traditional battlefield confrontation will evolve with the use of drones equipped with small arms. This has become necessary in the world we live in today because when terrorists operate, they work from within civilian populations, making it difficult for the military to engage them.
The risk of collateral damage when battling terrorists in any civilian population is too high and the only viable solution is to send in ground troops. This usually would mean that the risk is transferred to real soldiers. But now, with the robotic soldiers, the risk will be transferred to TIKAD effectively saving the lives of more people.
The prospect of reducing the number of civilian and military casualties by using a weaponized drone is an appealing possibility, but many critics are also horrified by the idea of guns-totting drones in any airspace.
Dukes Robotics is still looking for investors, but reports claim that the Israeli military may be the first buyers of these new combat drones. The company will work with government agencies around the world to reduce the number of deployments and empower troops with air support, reduce battlefield injuries, improve the success rate of missions, and loss of life to friendly troops and civilians.