KEY POINTS

  • A video released by the developer shows a swarm of drones deployed from light tactical vehicles and helicopters and flying in formation.
  • The tests follow indications U.S. President Donald Trump was pushing for more arms sales to Taiwan.
  • With its Predator drone system, the U.S. military has an advantage in the field, though China is catching up.

A low-cost “suicide drone” dispatched in swarms to overwhelm a target was tested recently by the Chinese military, video and military sources suggest, the South China Morning Post reported.

An unnamed source with ties to China’s People’s Liberation Army told the Post tests were conducted last month by developer China Electronics Technology Group Corp. A video released by the developer shows a swarm of drones deployed from light tactical vehicles and helicopters and flying in formation. The source was short on specifics, but noted China had made advances on drone technology since development began in 2012.

The tests follow indications U.S. President Donald Trump was pushing for more arms sales to Taiwan, testing China’s patience with jlittle more than two weeks to go before the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election. A government source in Taiwan told the Reuters on condition of anonymity that “ Taiwan has five weapons systems that are moving through the process.”

Paul Scharre, a former official in the U.S. Defense Department told London’s Daily Express the latest test “shows that China is developing swarm drone systems and they could be operational in a few years.”

The military source for the South China Morning Post said the “suicide drones” were still under development and “technical problems are yet to be resolved.” With its Predator drone system, the U.S. military has an advantage in the field though China is catching up as it pushes to be technologically independent.

China has been putting its military capabilities on display, most recently during Oct. 1 celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Relative to more conventional weaponry like fighter jets, which run in the tens of millions of dollars, drones are cheap.

An investigation by NBC News found cheaper drones from China, Israel and Turkey are finding their way into the conflict pitting Armenia against Azerbaijan in the contest over the disputed territory of Nagarno-Karabakh.