Saudis buy Chinese killer drones

David Axe reports: Saudi Arabia is the world’s newest drone power. And that could be a problem, since the Saudis are in the midst of a rather nasty war.

Riyadh has signed a contract with Chinese firm Chengdu for an unspecified number of Pterodactyl drones, Saudi media reported in late August and early September.

The 30-foot-long, propeller-driven Pterodactyl, which Chengdu apparently modeled on America’s iconic Predator and Reaper drones, can fly for hours at a time carrying cameras and missiles. Operators on the ground control the unmanned aerial vehicle via satellite.

As far as killer drones go, the Pterodactyl probably isn’t terribly sophisticated — its sensors are certainly less capable than U.S.-made models — and that can mean the difference between life and death for innocent people caught in the crossfire as flying robots hunt militants on the ground.

Just ask people in Iraq. The Baghdad government acquired rudimentary CH-4 killer drones from China in late 2015. On one of the type’s very first missions against suspected ISIS terrorists in January, the drone’s operators accidentally targeted pro-government militamen, killing nine fighters and wounding 14. [Continue reading…]

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