New Russian drone: prospective weapon or scam?

Drone «Privet-82». Photo: telegram channel of design bureau «OKO»

Absence of Russian military successes and hype over various drones laid down favorable conditions for Russian startups to develop and manufacture drones.

Russian design bureau «OKO» with its drone «Privet-82» [Hello-82] has been among these startups. Its prospects are vague but there is noisy Russian media hype over its «cheapest and most effective» kamikaze drone. For example, Russian federal information agency TASS has published six news about «Privet-82» since March 2023. Though, the drone has been tested only in June 2023.

Design bureau «OKO» has been created in Saint Petersburg last year. Its goal is to develop cheap multi-functional drones meeting the needs Russian voluntary battalions and private military companies.

The only finished product of «OKO» is kamikaze drone «Privet-82». It is manufactured from very cheap materials, with the task to become mass product. In March 2023, design bureau disclosed its value – around 110 thousand Rubles (less than $ 1500). But in June co-founder of bureau Vadim Zhernov indicated higher price – 150 thousand Rubles.

In June 2023, Russian media reported about testing flights of «Privet-82» in battalions «Kaskad», «Vostok», private military company «Wagner» as well as in units of the National Guard of Russia.

Another product of the bureau is kamikaze drone «Privet-120», capable to carry approximately 20 kilograms of explosives. Website of the bureau calls it «cruise missile at the price of laundry machine». However, this project has been stalled since the end of 2022.

On June 23, developers reported about prototype of new drone with the name «Privet-82r». It is similar to «Privet-23» but, as bureau says, it has larger wings (up to 3 meters) and new tail. New drone is comfortable for reconnaissance purposes as it is supposed to fly 2 hours longer.

The company pretends that it will be able to produce up to 100 drones «Privet-82» per day, upon sufficient financing, i.e. 36 500 drones per year.

«Privet-82» at catapult, photo: telegram channel of design bureau «OKO»

On June 17, TASS reported about the first combat flight «Privet-82»: drone overcame Ukrainian radio electronic warfare station and successfully hit its target. However, TASS demonstrated only low quality short video from FPV camera of the drone, without any geo tags.

Russian propagandist media praise easy control of new weapon. «Operator who controlled the drone during its first combat flight has not been an experienced operator of FPV-drone. He used them only one day before».

As representative of the bureau stated, the training of operator takes two days – one day for theory and one day for practice. Training is conducted on the territory of Leningradskaja oblast: «Operators of FPV-drones easily switch to «Privet-82» because its control is easier».

Drone «Privet-82» at Russian exhibition «Drones, Technologies to identify and suppress». Photo: design bureau «OKO»

However, an expert from Ukrainian academy DRONARIUM under conditions of anonymity critically evaluated Russia media reports about success of the drone:

«It is not DJI Mavik or Matrice. Their control is like radio control of children’s toys. Russian drone require good skills and many hours of practical training. We should cautiously treat Russian reports about «easy control». It is unlikely that they succeeded in creating something as successful as claimed», as states Ukrainian expert.

How does «Privet-82» work?

Developers describe promising prospects for the use of drone «Privet-82». As they declare, these drones are able to fly under radio silence from hubs in the rear to the front line. Then, operators take control over them and direct to their targets.

Scheme of control of drone «Privet-82». Photo: telegram channel of design bureau «OKO»

If there is one operator in the military unit, then, he will control drones one after one. If there are several operators, they will be able to make coordinated hits by several drones.

Besides that, control of drones can be transferred between operators.

Design bureau «OKO» confirm that it does not have the license to produce drones ‘Privet-82». It means they produce drones without explosives. Russian soldiers will have to attach them to the drone by their hands.

Who is behind design bureau «OKO»?

Russian mass media call Andrei Sergeevich Ivanov and Vadim Robertovich Zhernov as co-founders of bureau «OKO». Russian State Register of Legal Entities has only one legal entity founded by them. It is limited liability company «SPDBBK». It has been created in 2005 by photo journalist Vadim Zhernov, who worked in RIA «Novosti» and TASS in 2007-2012.

Vadim Zhernov (left) gives an interview to Russian propagandist Maksim Kalashnikov (right). Screenshot: Рой.ТВ

Zhernov says that while working for RIA «Novosti», he has been among the first «to conduct aerial photography from drones».  «He has owned one of the first heavy drones in Russia, constructed from components from all around the world».

LLC «SPDBBK» has been mainly involved into printing industry at the beginning. On April 25, 2023, it changed its profile into «production of aerial vehicles, including space vehicles, and respective equipment».

Andrei Sergeevich Ivanov received 70% of statutory capital of the company on April 25. As Zhernov says, Ivanov is the founder of IT startup. Bureau «OKO’ invested dozens of millions of Rubles into the launch of startup.

Andrei Ivanov could have been involved into the creation of another kamikaze drone called «Ovod» [Gadfly]. As Russian media reported, «Ovod» has been already used by Russian troops near Avdiivka. It has been tested by military units of so-called «DNR». Russian media quoted the head of its developers’ group and called him «Andrei Ivanov». However, surname «Ivanov» is so widespread in Russia that it can be another person.

Will «Privet» fly to Ukraine?

As design bureau «OKO» reported, «Privet-82» has been created to meet the needs of voluntary battalions and private military companies. Perhaps, it has not been yet ordered by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

Example of «Privet-82» in occupied Donetsk. Photo: design bureau «OKO»

Some Russian media reported that drone has been tested by the National Guard of Russia. On June 10, as Vadim Zhernov said, it has been tested by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. The test focused on its flight range and flight time with cargo for the distance of 10 kilometers. «The drone has been launched and controlled during the flight; it made maneuvers, switched on and off its engines while hitting the target. Attack has been repeated under silent mode».

Drones produced by other civilian companies have been also tested. It means that Russian authorities strengthened involvement of private civilian companies and design bureaus into developing drones for the needs of the Armed Forces of Russia.

Vadim Zhernov said that his design bureau has already cooperated with the Ministry of Defense and that it received orders from army units for 300-400 drones. However, the Russian army can receive drones only through procurement conducted by the Ministry of Defense. The launch of the defense procurement takes a lot of time.

Ukrainian anti-drone complex «Nota». Photo: the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

The commander of anti-drone unit of the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine under conditions of anonymity evaluated prospects of «Privet-82» in the following way:

«If we are talking about «Privet-82», then, $ 1 500 can be its cost price. It is FPV wings which use two most popular radio frequencies. If we add the cost of catapult, then, overall cost will rise to $ 5 000. Electronic equipment is 100% from China (civilian products). The Russian Ministry of Defense will not buy it. It is only for volunteers. Means of radio electronic warfare will suppress their frequencies. It is unlikely that they will produce it as the mass product…»

It is obvious that now design bureau «OKO» conducts active advertisement campaign, in order to attract investments. Prospects of the drone are unclear.

On June 18, Vadim Zhernov launched crowd funding campaign to collect 400 thousand Rubles for «the gift» – two reconnaissance drones «Privet-82r». Campaign has been launched immediately after «the first successful combat use of «Privet-82r». Drones will be sent «to soldiers who were the first to use the drone». Crowd funding is conducted in the telegram channel of the design bureau and at the website of Tinkoff bank.

When this article was published, campaign results were rather modest as its initiators failed to collect 200 thousand Rubles even for the first drone.