The Lanius mini-drone operates in a swarm and is flown into action by a “mother ship”. There she can spy on a building fully autonomously and identify enemy fighters. When attacking, she lunges at the enemy and blows herself up – requiring a human to override the kill.

Elbit-Systems is known for electronic high-tech military equipment. Now the company from Israel has presented a small killer drone. The Lanius can autonomously survey an area or search a building, then pounce on its target with an explosive charge. Its basis is a commercially available small and fast quadcopter drone. Mounted on top of it is a huge, insect-like head stuffed with sensors. He is the actual development of Elbit. These drones are cheap, easy to use, and are getting smarter with new software. And they’re easy to attach a deadly payload to. The Lanius is very small, weighing just 1.25 kilograms including the payload. This also makes it suitable for use in buildings. Its payload is 150 grams. That’s enough for a deadly explosive charge. The Lanius can move at 72 km/h. Your flight time is seven minutes. Therefore, the Lanius must be brought to the site by a mother drone. Three Lanius belong to a swarm.

Fully autonomous reconnaissance and kamikazed drone

The drone has an autonomous mode for takeoff, navigation and scouting. With an AI module from Nvidia, she can quickly analyze large data streams. Using the images from the sensors and a localization and mapping algorithm, she creates three-dimensional maps of the operational environment from the data. To do this, she works with the Elbit software for battle swarms. The Legion-X program connects multiple drones on autonomous missions. A video shows a hypothetical deployment. A group of soldiers come under fire from the enemy in an urban setting. The soldiers are stuck. Then the Mother Drone will appear, dispatching her Lanius units. They buzz around like a swarm of bees – then they have identified the opponents and help their own soldiers to defeat the enemy.

The Lanius drone can completely map its operational area. It recognizes and marks important points as well as closed or open doors and windows. Even without human remote control, it can enter buildings and search them. In addition, it should be able to recognize people and decide whether they are friendly or hostile – i.e. whether they are combatants or unarmed civilians.

Attacking an enemy fighter must be authorized by a human. In a civilian setting, the drone’s usefulness would be limited. She could hardly explore a building unnoticed with all the doors closed and the windows intact. In war zones, on the other hand, windows and doors are the first to break. Since the flight duration of the Lanius is very limited, it can extend its use. If it makes a stopover, the power consumption drops sharply and the drone could lie in wait for an opponent for a longer time.

Human decides

The Lanius shows the direction of combat on the ground. Weapons like this are very cheap to produce compared to other military technology. The basic drone can be bought from civilian production, the electronics are no more complex than those of a Playstation. And the video sensors and chips for analyzing the amount of data have also become cheaper and cheaper since they have been mass-produced. One thing should not be mistaken: systems of this type are a huge step towards fully autonomous killer robots that make decisions about life and death without human intervention. The Lanius drone still has human clearance, but it only requires a software patch and the Kamikaze drone will kill without clearance.

The newly introduced drone should not appear in the Ukraine war. It is likely that the weapon will be exported to allies, but the Israeli government does not allow arms shipments to Kyiv.