MQ-27: Infantry Drone of the Future?


The video game, “Call of Duty: Black Ops II,” published last year by Activision features a small, quad-rotor drone armed with a submachine gun and plastic explosives designed to kill enemies on the battlefield in the year 2025.

The fictional weapon was partly the brainchild of Peter Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., who also works as an author, futurist and video game consultant. To help market the game, he said, the company spent about $2,000 building a real-life version of the tablet-operated drone, named it “Charlene,” then filmed it shredding targets in a YouTube video that has been viewed more than 20 million times.

“A Pentagon office … saw the video of Charlene and said, ‘Wow, that’s not right that this Russian guy’ — they didn’t realize he was an actor we hired — they said, ‘That’s not right that this Russian guy has a better drone than the entire U.S. military in a tactical sense.’ We ought to build that,” Singer said during a speech Monday at the Air Force Association’s annual conference in National Harbor, Md.

“And then they put out several contracts to some of the companies out here to make Charlene real,” he said. “I guarantee you it won’t cost a couple of thousands of dollars when they do it.”

Singer, speaking in an exhibit hall filled with booths sponsored by defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., was making a point about how technological advances are lowering the barriers of entry for using and manufacturing unmanned systems. Air Force leaders must be prepared for new, commercially inspired uses for drones, he said.

“What does it even mean for the personnel side, when you will have young airmen … who will have experience with drones at home coming in [to the service] and maybe using older ones in the system, a lot like what happened with computers?” he asked. “Bottom line, robotics is coming, like it or not.”

Other potentially game-changing technologies include artificial intelligence, directed energy, three-dimensional printing and cyber-warfare, Singer said.

The military, however, still plans to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on technology that was developed years or even decades ago, from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the Joint Tactical Radio System, a family of digital radios conceived in 1997, Singer said.

“How do you protect the new from being swallowed up by the old,” he said. “We don’t like to admit it, but the old is actually privileged by current contracts, current program offices, current internal tribes, constituencies who see their careers linked to that system, current factories and congressional districts, which made armies of lobbyists working on behalf of the old system.”

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Bernard

    “How do you protect the new from being swallowed up by the old,” he said. “We don’t like to admit it, but the old is actually privileged by current contracts, current program offices, current internal tribes, constituencies who see their careers linked to that system, current factories and congressional districts, which made armies of lobbyists working on behalf of the old system.”

    Read more:

    And that is exactly what is wrong with our system. We need to end this nonsense of overly large defense contracts that have the work unnecessarily spread out across numerous states. Drone technology is giving us a great opportunity to make smaller cheaper projects that still get the job done and keep America at the top. If we don’t recognize and adapt we will continue burning cash on tech that will be outdated or irrelevant before it is even fielded.

    • blight_

      The startup culture you mean? The aerospace titans of today were founded in a startup culture of the ’20s…many died, but they lived. Now they’re huge and complacent and perhaps find it easier to use their incumbent advantage instead of engineering advantage.

      • shawn1999

        I hate to admit it, but the other fact is that, if the Govt can cancel contracts because a developing system is outdated, then it would be impossible for new companies to accept them- they’d focus all their effort on a project with only a hope and no guarantee they’ll get paid. Only the big companies that can afford to diversify AND be able to take a hit like that will be able to work on new projects. I kinda thought the solution to both of these issues was DARPA- give whomever has the best idea a financial boost and guarantee that they get it done quickly… I’m probably wrong though

    • donna

      You know what’s really really cool about the large gov’t bloate causing the inability for them to act on new technology? If/When the US Govt finally turns on its citizens (its coming folks) the private individual will be so far ahead of the game that our current military will be unable to respond..let alone win the battle.

      • Dr. Horrible

        When’s it coming? It’d be real swell if you could let us know a little in advance, if you can swing that.

  • Lance

    When dose the T-800 come??? LOL

    • oo7


  • Steave Hussey

    This is really a nice thing that the Russian Guy had made. But I am little bit that How US army men can delight as the futuristic drone has been made by a Russian Boy.

  • S O
  • lowlife

    I am confused. The video looks like CGI…?

    • justin

      Over on one of the gun blogs, that video was examined an found while the drone was real, the gun and shooting was fake. No recoil or shell casings present. Call of Duty Black Ops 2 advertisement

    • Blackshark

      It’s a little both. The Quad first depicted is a real model. All the flight is computer generated. Keep in mind the model shown must be made of foam or very light material so it’s just a concept. The way in which the model behaves in the air is not physically possible. Notice how it is at a constant roll yet not side slipping. There’s a list of discrepancies but you get the point.
      (Credibility Aerospace Engineer familiar with U.A.S. systems such as quads)

      • UAVGeek

        The flying sequences are pure CGI. The whole reason for a multicopter is so that you don’t have to have articulated rotor mounts. All flight control is handled by altering, very quickly the speed of the individual motors.

  • JimL

    I’m sure the Secret Service is very, very unhappy.

  • Pilgrimman

    It’s the year of our Lord 2013 and people still don’t know about FPS Russia??

  • Linn

    I LOVE FPS RUSSIA…..and as always, Have a nice day

  • hibeam

    We should never have boots on the ground without one or two armed drones circling overhead.

  • PolicyWonk

    Indeed it is possible for the new to be eaten up by the old – especially when a ton o’ money is involved. Some of you might recall when our former Sec Def. called for the creation of “transformational” technologies.

    And voila! Overnight, every cold-war style relic/system that was under development became “transformational” (it was almost miraculous!).

    That said – the US acquisition system should be put under receivership, and/or extirpated and replaced with one similar to that used by the Brits. They get a far better deal than the US taxpayers.

  • John

    Not sure what this Peter Singer guy is talking about but that quadcopter in the video is clearly CGI.

  • Gandalf (honestly)

    What on earth are we playing at defensetech?

    are we next going to see an article stating the military industrial complexes efforts to hire the fish head guy from Star Wars because he seemed pretty on the ball about figuring out “its a trap” or will their next project be to create a lightsaber because “those sneaky jedi have technology we don’t have”

    either you forgot that april fools is in….april or its going to be easier to trick you than I ever believed possible. Singer may have spent a couple of hundred to make a static display mockup but that is as far as the concept goes.

    look out lockhead…..there are talking animals and vampires out there who are just waiting to take out an f22. the future is gullible and the future is now.

    • drrob

      drones will develope to be viable gun slinging mechanisms that will save many soldiers lives.

  • This is awesome.