In recent years, Russian defense forces have been adopting Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in greater numbers. One type in having made its way into the inventory of the Russian Air Force is the compact Yakovlev "Pchela" ("Bee") which is used for the Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR) role. The system is used by the militaries of both Russia and North Korea (2018). A first-flight was recorded in 1990.
The vehicle's design consists of a tube-like fuselage which houses the optics and avionics set in the front and the powerpack in the rear. The optics are held in a traversing "blister" mounted in the chin position and integrates real-time video feeds with protected data-link capability - giving ground commanders access to real-time battlefield data. The engine drives a shrouded propeller unit in "pusher" configuration at the tail. Over midships is a shoulder-mounted, straight wing mainplane. The undercarriage is a static, shock-absorbing four-legged tube assembly.
As designed, the air vehicle has a an operational range out to about 40 miles from its ground remote-control post and can reach altitudes in excess of 8,000 feet. Maximum speed reaches over 110 mph. The system can remain airborne for some two total hours. The launch process requires use of two solid-propellant booster rocket-driven engines and recovery is by way of a parachute deployed to retard the fall of the vehicle as it returns to the ground. The vehicle is flown either through pre-set mission waypoints (automated flight) or by remote, manual input by a ground-based operator.
Beyond its stated value to the ISR role, the Pchela can also be used to designate targets for accompanying attack aircraft and can further serve as a target drone for training actions. Like other UAVs of this class, the Pchela is designed with a modular payload-carrying capability which can be arranged to suit the needs of the customer.
According to Yakovlev marketing materials, the complete Pchela field system includes up to ten air vehicles with associated (dispensable) booster launchers, the mobile GCS and launch rail (built into the compact tracked, air-droppable BTR-D armored vehicle), a supporting URAL-4320 military truck, and a loader-transporter GAZ-66 series military truck.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
Developed ability to be used as a dedicated trainer for student pilots (typically under the supervision of an instructor).
Aircraft inherently designed (or later developed) with an unmanned capability to cover a variety of over-battlefield roles.
220 lb (100 kg)
309 lb (140 kg)
+88 lb (+40 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Yakovlev Pchela-1T production variant)
1 x Conventional drive motor arranged in pusher configuration. Solid-fueled rocket-boosted launches.
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