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The Drone Index: ArmBGC Innovation

October 26, 2016

The Yuneec Tornado H920 Hexacopter.

One of the surprises at the recent ArmHiTec in Yerevan from October 13 to 15 was the strong turnout from local manufacturers. Decades of conflict and economic isolation appears to have forced Armenia toward a bootstrapped development path, especially with industries vital for its national defense.

A minor revelation at the show was tangible proof a local aerospace sector is thriving in the landlocked country, albeit focused on light UAVs. Claims of indigenous drone production for the armed forces have been made for years but actual proof these exist is hard to find. During the recent clash over Nagorno-Karabakh in April this year drones had an indispensable role as floating spotters for artillery from both sides.

But one Armenian company called ArmBGC LLC appears to have been ordained for a unique role. According to the military news site Echelon-Defense the startup’s representatives at ArmHiTec confirmed an R&D project involving “suicide drones.”

The value of suicide drones is their effectiveness as affordable guided ordnance. Their nimble size and small visual signatures allows them to target vulnerable facilities–and then terminate themselves. At the height of the latest fighting in Karabakh an Israeli-made Harpy or Harop UAV was used to ambush a bus carrying soldiers.

News footage from ArmHiTec included brief clips of ArmBGC’s booth where several UAV models were on display, including a light UAS. The propeller-driven twin-boom design was hung on a wall and looked like a prototype rather than the latest addition to ArmBGC’s portfolio.

But the startup’s activities as a defense contractor are far from the public eye. Just visiting their website barely suggests any involvement with military applications. Their online store, for example, consists of accessories for two branded product lines: the Yuneec (pronounced “unique”) Typhoon and Yuneec Tornado. The former has three configurations, two hexacopters and a quadcopter, while the latter are four expensive variants of a single hexacopter.

It does appear ArmBGC’s focus on high performance UAVs for hobbyists has given it a firm grasp of assembly processes applicable to larger and more capable platforms in the near future. It would be interesting to see what they come up with soon.

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