Small UAVs Supporting Special Operations

Small UAVs Supporting Special Operations

Photo illust. small UAV By US Army
Sgt. Michael Tacket, Head Quarters and Head Quarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, launches a Tier I Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, "PUMA", during training, Schofield Barracks, Nov. 14.

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Small UAVs are classified based on their size; they are small enough to be carried and operated by a single person. Small UAVs can be hand-launched, and can have vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), or short take-off and landing (STOL) capabilities. A majority of the small UAVs are either electric-powered or solar-powered. Some of them are also powered by fuel, which are mostly used for defense applications.

One of the countries that has been broadening the use of small UAVs in recent years is China. Special forces and scout units within China’s People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) and People’s Armed Police (PAP) appear to be increasing the use of small reconnaissance UAVs to help them locate and engage potential targets.

According to, images posted in December 2019 by the PLA-sponsored China Military Online website show PAP special operations soldiers using a small quadcopter-type UAV during the ‘Demon’s Week’ counter-terrorism training exercise held in southern China.

It seems that the photographed UAV can be carried in a backpack – as part of the spotter’s equipment – and easily deployed on the battlefield. The UAV is controlled using a two-handed controller that includes a small flat panel display. It is possible that the UAV is also provided with some form of automation.

Official media reported that the Chinese army has added portable reconnaissance drones to its arsenal that will provide a significant tactical advantage to the troops while shooting enemies hiding behind walls.

A scout battalion of the PLA 80th Group Army is now operating the drones, as they have been deployed in recent training, state-run Global Times quoted China Central Television (CCTV) as reporting.

This type of drone can be used in a two-person-sniper group – one shooter who concentrates on aiming, and one spotter who provide extra information on the target, according to 

When an enemy hides behind a wall, the spotter can release the drone and fly it with a controller. The drone can provide details of the wall to enable the shooter to choose where to hit. Equipped with an anti-material sniper rifle powerful enough to shoot through walls, the shooter will then blow the target away together with the wall, according to the report.