The Vero drone, originally built for farm inspections, sits on a table with weapons and a grenade … [+] launcher slung underneath.
Image courtesy VINVELI Group
A quadcopter is a tool, a drone just waiting for humans to give it purpose. For dronemaker VINVELI, the purpose of its quadcopters shifted with the market and with its change in location. Which is how a drone launched as a farmer’s helper is now in the hands of special forces in India.
Launched in Texas, VINVELI emerged from a startup accelerator in Iowa with a mission to sell drones and drone services to agricultural and industrial users. Now based in India, the company offers drones that can fire grenades to law enforcement and military customers.
Dubbed “Vero,” the quadcopter can be outfitted with a launcher firing 38mm or 40mm grenades. Paired with the drone’s 30-40 minute flight time while armed, Vero can give more reach and direction to an attack beyond conventional trajectories. It’s easy to see how the same design that facilitated industrial inspections can be turned into a tool of urban warfare.
“Here’s an example scenario with the 38mm launcher,” describes VINVELI Group director Gokul Anandayuvaraj. “Terrorists holding hostages at 30th floor of a hotel room in an urban environment, the drone can be used to fire one wood piercing round into the window to break it and a second smoke or stun grenade to create a distraction so the counter terror forces can go in and safety intervene and rescue.”
The Vero drone, with a 5-foot diameter, can fly for up to 50 minutes without any special payload. A human operator can direct it using electro-optical or infrared cameras. The signals can be encrypted, to add some guaranteed that only the right user is seeing the feed.
Vero can also navigate by GPS waypoints, and it features a modular payload attachment tool, allowing human operators to quickly change what extra tools the quadcopter needs for a given mission.
As an industrial drone, Vero was built for tasks ranging from wind turbine blade inspections, to solar panel inspection, to looking at everything from chimneys to oil and gas pipelines. It’s human portable, designed for one person to be able to pack it up, unpack it, and have it flying in just a few minutes.
In warfare with difficult terrain, Anandayuvaraj envisions the drone as allowing soldiers to fire explosives into cover, flushing enemies out of hiding and maybe even killing them in the process. When not involved in actively firing explosives at humans, the Vero can swap out the grenade launcher for other payloads.
“Jungle warfare commandos usually stay put for days in forests under adverse conditions for operations,” says Anandayuvaraj. “The drone can be sent in with supplies such as ammunition, food, critical medicines such as in case of a snake bite, for example that can be lifesaving.”
And, in a pinch, the Vero can simply just drop an explosive, without needing to use a launcher.
“We had worked with special forces from the Ministry of Home Affairs, India to understand the needs of commandos to build a solution,” says Anandayuvaraj. Since 2016, Vero drones have been in use with the National Security Guard, a military counter-terror unit run through Home Affairs.
It is now also being explored for use with more conventional military units, under the Ministry of Defence.
It is unlikely that any given grenade drone can end the use of cover, forever. But the greater proliferation of grenade-launching drones means people will need to adapt to the very real possibility that a loud buzzing doesn’t just mean they’re discovered, it means that they’re in immediate peril.