[video] What is the “flying evil witch” with a machine gun?

Ukrainian defenders turn a China-designed agricultural drone into a remotely-controlled attack helicopter.

The war in Ukraine has changed strategy planning and fighting tactics, as well as the weapons used, with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and drones playing an increasing role on the battlefield.

One of such weapons is the heavy night bomber Vampire, which the Russian aggressors call “Baba Yaga” – a flying evil witch from Slavonic folklore.

Capable of dropping 20 kilograms of bombs during a single mission, the Vampire drone was recently adapted by Ukrainian military engineers to carry a machine gun and/or a grenade launcher, making it a deadly remotely-controlled attack and reconnaissance helicopter.

While it can be employed as a kamikadze drone, carrying a firing weapon makes the UAV a reusable machine, which is a step forward in weapon technology.

While some Ukrainian sources claim this drone has been designed domestically, it is in fact a China-made UAV.

Originally designed for agricultural purposes, the Chinese DJI Agras T30 drone is equipped with a high-precision radar system, controlled remotely using high-precision RTK GNSS navigation, and includes features such as 3D AI operation planning to ensure precise application of pesticides, according to specifications on the manufacturer’s website.

Its hovering power consumption is 11,000 W and hovering endurance – 20,5 minutes with a payload of 36,5 kilograms.

The maximum flight altitude is 4,500 meters but it can fly really low – 1.5 meters above the ground – to go unnoticed. The maximum pull is 18.7 kilogram per rotor and the battery life is 2 hours.

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The six/eight-rotor drone weighs less than 800 grams and its maximum level speed reaches 10 meters per second with a good signal. There are no credible reports as to how far it can fly in fully-armed conditions.

The Ukrainian army endowed the T30 with night vision and infrared camera, using it mainly at night, when Russian infantry conducts rotations and evacuation maneuvers, and because of noise. Early this year, Ukrainian forces released footage of the drone firing with a machine gun, apparently mounting a Soviet-made 7,62 mm PKM machine gun and a Bullspike-AT hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher of Bulgarian origin.

The integration of these weapons onto the drone required local programmers and engineers to solve several technical challenges, such as maintaining stability during shooting, eliminating recoil-associated issues, and ensuring efficient ammunition management.

Video footage show that those challenges with the machine gun have been solved, which means a new type of weapons is making room for military history. However, it's unclear whether the grenade launcher is operational.

Although it is large and noisy, T30 is said to be resistant to jamming, a feature that makes it valuable on the frontlines. It is operated via radio or Starlink communication, for long-range missions.

Currently, Ukraine manufactures T30 under its own brand - Vampire - after China stopped sale of T30 worldwide last year. Gunship drones have been also developed by the U.S. Army, Turkey, China, and other militarily advanced countries.

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