Ukraine conflict: ‘Drones' engage in first recorded unmanned aerial combat

by Gareth Jennings

A still from video footage taken by another ‘drone' that appears to show the first air-to-air combat involving only unmanned aircraft. (Armed Forces of Ukraine via Twitter)

Unmanned systems have engaged each other in combat for the first time, footage released from Ukraine appears to show.

A 16 second clip of two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or ‘drones' as they are colloquially known, duelling in the skies of the Ukrainian battlefield marks the first time that an engagement entirely between unmanned systems has been recorded not just in that conflict, but in the history of warfare.

The footage shows the engagement from the onboard camera of one of the two protagonists. Identified on social media as being a Ukrainian UAV spotting for artillery, this ‘drone' is approached by what is reported to be a Russian quadcopter that manoeuvres around it before seemingly purposefully crashing into it with a view to take it out of the sky. As seen in the clip, it is the quadcopter that actually comes to grief, its rotor blades snapping before crashing to the ground.

The clip posted on social media on 13 October has not been independently verified, but the landscape does appear to be consistent with the Ukrainian battlefield.

As with conflict zones around the world, the war in Ukraine has been marked by an intense use of unmanned systems, chiefly UAVs, by both sides. Their use has covered a range of operational missions, including surveillance and targeting, long-range strike, and even dropping grenades onto ground forces.

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Unmanned systems have engaged each other in combat for the first time, footage released from Ukraine...

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