Looking like a mix between a bird of prey and a small drone glider, the silver colored drone was probably on a mission to spy on enemy insurgents. The crash occurred in southwestern Pakistan and has been well documented and photographed by many news agencies around the world.
The most frequent answer to what this drone actually is comes from the mouths of the ones who discovered this drone, the Pakistani Frontier Corps in Baluchistan province. A surveillance drone, with a smallish camera attached to the belly, is nothing new to the United States Air Force or to the millions of drone flyers who love to take snapshots of high altitudinal locations.
The drone that was recovered last week looks smaller than what anyone on the know would have expected, at least from a military surveillance drone. It is tiny, with an average large bird’s wingspan of about six feet across. The official weight has not yet been released and probably will not be for obvious counter surveillance reasons. The Pakistani Frontier Corps is a group of Pakistani Regulars formed in 1907. The group is a federally controlled paramilitary force, whose members are recruited mostly from the tribal areas along the western borders and led by officers from the Pakistan Army.
The very avian looking winged drone is likened to the seagull that is found all along the various saltwater as well as freshwater localities in and around Pakistan. If this were indeed a military wing operation, it would seem fathomable that a seagull would be used as a camouflage drone.
The mystery drone is nothing like what the Pakistanis have encountered from downed and recovered US and collation forces in Pakistan. The winged drone is something that is new to the surveillance arena but this does not mean that the United States military or the various other national forces that are currently battling insurgents in Pakistan are the only usual suspects for this downed bird drone. There are many smaller, non-governmental alliances and forces present in Pakistan these days and all one has to do is think paramilitary and guns for hire. One of these special forces could have been testing the latest and greatest in high end avian like drone science and just went either a little too far or need to tweak the bird a little more.
There are commercial bird drones on the market today, with one of the most popular being the SmartBird created by the engineers at Festo and modeled explicitly on herring gull. Clearly not the exact same winged drone, the SmartBird has sharper angled wings and is not able to carry any such payload. While a mere pound may not sound like much of a payload to carry and lift off the ground, to the avian drone manufacturers it is like an elephant.
The downed drone in Pakistan does not have the autonomous flight feature that the SmartBird encompasses that allows the drone to fly naturally whenever the on the ground owner desires the action to be more natural. Additionally, the winged downed drone has ailerons, which are hinged flight control surfaces attached to the trailing edge of the wing. The nose of the downed drone looks like if, at one point in time, there was a propeller installed and this really opens up the questions on the origination of this mysterious winged drone!
TFOT has covered new UAV technologies that are related to drones and the surveillance science sector, in earlier issues, namely Navy Laser Roasts Incoming Drones and Airrobots Mini UAV.
More information on the CST-100 can be found on the wired.com website.