Russia has joined an arms race to produce weaponry capable of firing small drones across the battlefield.
The country has set research and development teams the task of designing and creating small arms and cannons which can fire multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) successfully, pushing forward a day when, perhaps, countries will rely on drones to conduct the better part of on-the-field warfare.
The meeting explored the possibilities of a hand-held grenade launcher which can fire multiple drones. Each UAV, once fired, would then provide "concealed and continuous air reconnaissance" for drone operators, including surveys of terrain and opposition force activities in real-time.
By providing secretive scout capabilities, the drones' footage could then disarm prepared traps through prior knowledge of them, make forces aware of enemy movement and potentially change military decisions on where to send ground units.
The drones can also be equipped with a variety of payloads for other purposes, such as target acquisition systems.
According to the developers of the Russian device, the drones are prepared for launch within a period of five seconds to three minutes, depending on whether or not tailored flight plans are used. In addition, the drones are able to stay airborne for up to two hours at an altitude of roughly 4km.
In February this year, Nikolai Makarovets, the creator of the Smerch multiple-launch rocket system, said UAVs had been created and tested and were now ready for launch -- as soon as customers snapped them up.
"The idea to create an unmanned air vehicle enclosed in a Smerch missile warhead is not new," Makarovets said. "We have carried out technological research and produced it at our own expense, we are not hiding it."
The United States is also well on the way to producing drones for launch in the battlefield. In 2015, the US Navy unveiled the low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology ( LOCUST) program which focuses on the development of launchers able to fire dozens of drones in a swarm able to "autonomously overwhelm an adversary."
The Raytheon-built Coyote drones launched out of the tube cost $15,000 each -- although there is hope to reduce this price -- and can be fired in quick succession.
As noted by Military.com, an air show took place last year after land tests were complete at the Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, which proved the drones were able to hold formation and conduct a series of maneuvers.
The US and Russia are both on the cusp of potentially using UAVs for warfare in this way, and in the future, such a sight may become a common occurrence.