Russia’s ‘covid’ drone set to fly out of test period

Written by By James Bessen, CNN

Covid, the storm-seeking drone that can carry a payload of poison and is up for sale on Amazon, will not likely stop flying by the end of the five-year test period, experts warned Wednesday after an investigation by the Airprox Board of the United Kingdom.

The “hypersonic killer drone” is the latest weapon developed by Russia, and is being tested to kill from “strategic to tactical capabilities,” the Airprox Board of the United Kingdom said in a report about the drone.

The UK-based board investigates potential air-space incidents, looking into the next steps in cases when there are “serious or imminent potential risks to the safety of air traffic,” the Airprox Board said.

Covid is a fully capable version of a drone developed by Russia that was created to carry weaponry, ranging from tear gas to poisons, and capable of flying at up to Mach 5, the report said.

The UK Airprox Board was first alerted by US authorities about the test program involving Covid in February, the report said.

Russian officials confirmed to CNN that it is developing a hypersonic ‘killer drone,’ made of various parts at the launch site, including a wing and a car battery, according to the report.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, when asked about the UK investigation, said: “We are taking this incident very seriously and we are actively investigating and taking appropriate action. We have full confidence in our intelligence and security professionals, and would not comment on intelligence matters.”

US officials have not publicly identified Russia as the country behind the drone, but confirmed to CNN that the technology was coming from the country. Officials said they have detected Russia testing hypersonic drones over the past year, including ones with other munitions, including one more powerful than the lethal type listed in the Airprox Board report.

The report suggested that international aviation authorities might have to step in to develop a stronger standard for how aircraft must maneuver around the Russian drone. If that happens, it could lead to “more severe restrictions,” the report said.

Russia has maintained it has nothing to do with the drone and told CNN that it was not developing a hypersonic drone.

China is also researching and testing drones that could carry weapons, though its vehicle is smaller, the report said.

The UK Airprox Board recommended British officials take “the appropriate operational steps” within the first 10 days of testing, suggesting that those include limiting proximity to any helipad, which the plane is restricted from flying near until the test period is over.

Covid can be purchased on Amazon for $700, and there are already reports that the drone has been tested, at least for a brief period, by the Russian air force, the report said.

The US military has looked into the need for detection systems to limit the risk of the drone approaching the country’s airspace, the report said.

In July 2016, the US Air Force Research Laboratory’s Advanced Development and Engineering Command published a report seeking to develop a system to track hypersonic weapons. The report considered tactics for the system and obtained an unmanned drone and radar monitoring equipment that it said was needed in the U.S.

The FBI was investigating a “project kink” — code referring to a possible leak of classified information, CNN reported last year, citing FBI sources.

A source at the FBI’s Washington field office who spoke on condition of anonymity told CNN that the leak was related to an officer who worked on a drone research project for the FBI’s Washington field office.


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