A video posted in a pro-Russian Telegram channel shows Russian soldiers dropping a grenade in a plastic cup from a drone. It’s a cheap and, sometimes, effective improvised explosive device that puts a little delay on a grenade before it hits the ground.
It’s also a bizarre scene from the frontlines of a war fought by a country that spends north of $60 billion annually on its military and brags about advances in everything from nuclear weapons to submarines.
The setup is simple: attach a plastic cup to a commercial drone that has a claw that can remotely release a carried object. Soldiers put a grenade in the cup and pull the pin. The cup keeps the handle on a grenade closed. The drone goes up in the air, the operator sights the target, pushes a button to release the up and down the grenade goes. When it hits the target, it dislodges from the cup, releasing the lever, and detonating the grenade.
Using drones to deploy improvised explosives isn’t new. The Islamic State often used similar techniques in its various wars. The drones of Islamic State, however, were often more sophisticated than putting a grenade in a plastic cup. Some ISIS drones used plastic tubes that dropped manufactured warheads after receiving a radio signal from the operator. It was more work, but far less dangerous.
You can see a worst case scenario play out in another clip posted to a pro-Russian Telegram channel that claims to show Ukrainians trying and failing to pull off the same trick.
In the video, the soldiers put a grenade in a plastic cup that’s a little too small. The drone also doesn’t have a great grip on the cup. When it goes up in the air, the grenade and cup fall to the ground immediately, scattering the waiting soldiers. The video cuts off before we see the results of the screw up.
The soldiers on both sides of the war in Ukraine have smartphones. They grew up in a world connected to the internet. Because of that, they’re posting an incredible amount of footage of the war online in places like Telegram. In another viral clip, a Russian soldier fired a light machine gun at an abandoned missile launcher, causing an enormous explosion.
On the frontlines of modern war, both sides will continue to post their wins and their fails.