China’s new armed quad-copter drones are being built specifically to engage hostile targets from ground level in urban combat environments — even engaging targets through windows — as a means of support for ground troops in the fight. This shift toward airborne drones for infantry support could mean that China’s “ground” drones could reach the fight sooner than America’s.
Both Russia and the United States have made great leaps in recent years in their efforts to field infantry robots to support ground troops. But despite these advances, infantry support drones continue to lag well behind their airborne counterparts. Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) have already proven so effective that they’ve completely changed America’s approach to warfare. But the challenges of traversing complex terrain while keeping pace with war fighters, who are specially trained for adverse environments, has largely kept infantry-bots from the front lines — except in the one case when Russia did deploy their infantry-supporting Uran-6 to Syria, where it proved to be an embarrassing failure.
The Tianyi quadcopter is currently under development at Tianjin Zhongwei Aerospace Data System Technology, a subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned aerospace corporation. The platform was designed specifically for reconnaissance missions and close-range strikes against vehicles and personnel in urban environments. The platform is also designed with the intention of being affordable for foreign export markets.