With a body like a scorpion, a drone named Cerberus flies.
The tricopter is a slightly unusual form in the world of drones. It’s stark bilateral symmetry is a deviation from quadcopters or multirotors. It is angled with a purpose and its body is drawn like a crossbow that reveals its true purpose. Between the forward rotors and beneath the long tail, the Cerberus drone reveals its truest purpose: it is a frame for a weapon, a platform in need of a gun.
Developed by Skyborne technologies, the Cerberus GL is specifically designed to compete in the loitering munition space. As a category, armed small drones can offer a backpack-sized burst of airpower, an explosion remotely directed into a building or a vehicle or a human being. Loitering munitions, like the backpackable Switchblade, tend to be single shot, operating as piloted missiles.
With a range of payloads, the Cerberus GL could carry a single bomb, or mount a 12-gauge shotgun, or as the name suggests, mount a grenade launcher and three 40mm grenades.
“Infantry platoons that come under medium-range fire (e.g. machine gun or mortar) require immediate precision-strike air support,” read the description of the platform in the manual of participating technologies for Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments 2020. “Cerberus GL expands on the capability of small loitering munitions by enabling multiple shots, the ability to perform battle damage assessment and to return to the user for reloading.”
The Cerberus GL is one of a host of tools and weapons selected for the exercise, to be put on by the Maneuver Battle Lab at Fort Benning in 2020.
As futuristic as it sounds, the Cerberus GL, and similar drones more generally, are catching up to a capacity that insurgent and irregular forces have had for years. Commercial drones are cheap and plentiful enough that quadcopters dropping grenades, using shuttlecocks for stabilization, were part of ISIS’s arsenal in the Battle of Mosul.
What professional adaption brings is novelty and iterative design, but the category was fundamentally one borne of improvised weaponry.
Watch the Cerberus GL in flight below:
Kelsey Atherton blogs about military technology for C4ISRNET, Fifth Domain, Defense News, and Military Times. He previously wrote for Popular Science, and also created, solicited, and edited content for a group blog on political science fiction and international security.