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Donetsk Militia Shoot Down American Predator UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle)

TAB_S-51349812203Republican Self-defense forces have shot down an American drone over territory in the Republic of Donetsk, the authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic inform in their microblog on Twitter on Wednesday.

The Donetsk authorities stated on Twitter that;

“Information has appeared in the media about a shooting near the Security Service of Ukraine, in the center of Donetsk. Militiamen were shooting at a drone. The drone was shot down”.

predator-diagramHow the predator UAV Works – Under the Hood

The Predator UAV is a medium-altitude, long-range aircraft that operates much like any other small plane.

A Rotax 914, four-cylinder, four-stroke, 101-horsepower engine, the same engine type commonly used on snowmobiles, turns the main drive shaft. The drive shaft rotates the Predator’s two-blade, variable-pitch pusher propeller. The rear-mounted propeller provides both drive and lift. The remote pilot can alter the pitch of the blades to increase or decrease the altitude of the plane and reach speeds of up to 135 mph (120 kts). There is additional lift provided by the aircraft’s 48.7-foot (14.8-meter) wingspan, allowing the Predator to reach altitudes of up to 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The slender fuselage and inverted-V tails help the aircraft with stability, and a single rudder housed beneath the propeller steers the craft.

The fuselage of the Predator is a mixture of carbon and quartz fibers blended in a composite with Kevlar. Underneath the fuselage, the airframe is supported by a Nomex, foam and wood laminate that is pressed together in layers. Between each layer of laminate, a sturdy fabric is sandwiched in to provide insulation to internal components. The rib work of the structure is built from a carbon/glass fiber tape and aluminum. The sensor housing and wheels are also aluminum.

The edges of the wings are titanium and are dotted with microscopic weeping holes that allow an ethylene glycol solution to seep out of internal reservoirs and breakdown ice that forms on the wings during flight.

The Predator UAV uses run-of-the-mill mechanical systems. A 3-kilowatt starter/alternator supplies the craft’s electronics with power; this is supplemented with auxiliary battery power. Forward and aft fuel tanks house rubberized fuel bladders that are easy to fill through gas caps located at the top of the fuselage. An operator starts the engine by attaching the umbilical cord of a Starter/Ground Power Cart to the aircraft’s starter-control connector, located in the ground panel on the outside of the plane. An operator stops the engine by hitting a kill switch just behind one of the wings on the side of the plane.

 How To Take Down A Predator UAV

Let’s start by analysing the 1 November 2012 incident when two Iranian SU-25 fighters failed to took down a MQ-1 predator droneMQ-1 predator is a Tier-II: medium altitude, low endurance aircraft, which flies at about 9km above the ground and speed of 160 kmh. This altitude makes it a joke for saying you can shoot it down with rifles where bullets go no further than a thousand meter high or any method with primitive instrument operating by personnel on the ground. On the other hand, by using a jet fighter in this case, proved to be wasteful and ineffective.
The high-speed of the jet when approaching the low speed UAV is just as inferior as when a slow flying airplane trying to catch up with a much faster one, in terms of relatively speed difference. That explained the 2 attempts where the jets cannot target the UAV precisely. Another reason is the small footprint of the UAV makes it a difficult target to the jet with the 30mm bullets and even missiles (wasted) equipped on SU-25. It turns out that to take down these middle range flying machines we have to use middle range weapons, like catching a pawn using a pawn, not with a knight. A better suited counter-UAV airplane should only need to be able to fly at that altitude and that speed, and the plane and the take down operation need to be relatively cheap. It will be amazing to know that the outdated fixed wing airplanes of early 20th century have those matching capability, like LUSAC-11Vicker Vespa and Caudron G.4. It’s easy to see that these airplanes are no longer available, the remade of or adaptation from them should not pose a technical challenge to many countries.

As for the weaponry to equip on the counter-UAV, there is also no need of state of the art fire and destroy power. UAV up to know use mostly its globe sensors to observe the ground through normal lighting and infrared cameras. Despite many technology is being implemented to aided its vision through clouds, smoke etc., it’s believed that a simple blocking of the cameras will render the vehicle blind. A partial blocking, non-destroying of the camera by fly-in-parallel counter-UAV will render the surveillance task ineffective and avoid the diplomatic dispute as in the above case. In that case the US claimed to fly on international airspace, though everyone knows that with the plane’s eye looking into Iranian territory, this is no different from spying right above a country’s land.

For further cases where it is needed to take down UAVs for territory violations or illegal activities, it requires the counter-UAV’s ability to stop the airplane blades and rotors. Due to the low-power of the airplanes, widely available materials such as rubber strings, plastics and metal wires are enough to stall the blades. The question is then how to drop this blade-stopper on the UAV. Using the manned antique planes as in the scenario above, it’s able to see that given adequate size, these stoppers can be release and hang from the counter- UAV in its approach of the UAV. When the stopper components touch and tangled with UAV blades and rotors, its mission is accomplished. A more sophisticated one would be designed to both stop and capture the UAV.

It will be interesting to see experiments like this to be carried out. Also there’s no doubt that UAV manufacturers will or have been thought of way to counter that. It just a matter of time and speed of which side can advance further, given what they have in hand.

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