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Wagner Group Drones Go Haywire in Flight, But These Are No Toys

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One drone was “snuffed out” in new video from the field, but others kept flying.

COMMENTARY by Susan Katz Keating

The Russian state-funded Wagner Group says it is equipped with electronic warfare capabilities, to include the use of drones. The group uses a new video to showcase its drones in action in an unknown location. The demo vid shows mixed results. Some of the devices go haywire in flight, while others remain airborne. What is the BLUF on these Wagner drones? Let’s see what the “Musicians” show us.

The video sets the mood with closeups of a truck that is covered in camouflage netting. Against an ominous soundtrack, men gather near the truck, preparing their drones.

“Are you ready?” one man says in Russian. “Let’s fly.”

The scene shifts, showing the truck interior with its mix of contents, including a popular figure from Western culture, a Minion window doll. The bulk of the video consists of the truck traversing a dirt road, with the screen toggling between inside the cabin and overhead views of wintry terrain.

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The men refer to their drone as a Tumbler.

Marketed extensively in the U.S., the Tumbler-Cam Quadcopter is sold out at a number of outlets, including Walmart. Powered by battery, it can fly for up to seven minutes on a single charge. It can execute 60 degree turns, plus flips and rolls, and can maneuver in all directions.

“At the beginning, it will be difficult to learn to fly,” the Tumbler-Cam manual warns. “Seek the guidance of an experienced pilot to learn faster.”

Critics say that the Tumbler doesn’t hold up well in light wind, which may have come into play during the Wagner expedition.

In one segment of the video, the operators try to get their drone to work.

A man named Titan says that the signal is blocked. He calls over the radio to his comrade: “Viktor, Viktor, are you there?”

Titan tells Viktor to “turn on everything.”

Viktor acknowledges the request. He then hangs his handset from a roll bar inside the truck, and leaves it dangling in front of the outward-facing Minion doll.

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One Tumbler gets “snuffed out,” the men say, but others keep flying.

The video ends with the truck apparently stuck in the mud. The occupants have exited the cabin. They are not lost, however, because the drone knows where they are – at least, that’s our guess. The fate of the Minion doll is unknown.

Other than using the Tumbler to record a truck being driven down the road, how else have the Musicians employed this device?

They’re not saying. But as recent conflict has shown, drones can change the balance of power in war, particularly in the domain of air defense. And – unlike the Minion doll, and as noted in the manual – the Tumbler is not a toy.

The Wagner Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

With thanks to “A” for help with translation.

About Susan Katz Keating

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