Russia's amphibious UAV is equal parts plane and hovercraft

Flying an unmanned aerial vehicle isn't usually the hard part, getting it on and off the ground is. But thanks to the addition of an all-terrain hovercraft skirt, the Russian Federation's newest hybrid UAV will be able land and launch virtually any surface --from snow and sand to lakes and waterways, even stone-riddled roadways strewn with pebbles up to about 8 inches tall -- all while riding a protective cushion of air.

Code-named Chirok (roughly translated, "Teal"), this model is the latest reconnaissance and strike drone (RSD) to come out of United Instrument Corporation (UIC), a division of the state-owned Rostec company. The Chirok's 1:5 scale prototype made its debut at last year at Russia's MAKS air show (which you can see below). This year, the company is coming with an operational prototype. This full-size model -- which has already been constructed -- sports full-composite construction, a 10-meter wingspan, weighs 750 kg, and should be ready for flight testing by the 2015 trade show's August opening, according to a statement from Rostec. The company is also reportedly working on a larger, 2-ton variant though it's in the early concept phase.

It's designed with a 19,000-foot operational ceiling and a 1,550-mile service range and is rumored to even be powerful enough to carry up to three people in addition to a variety of internally-stowed guided, unguided, and smart munitions. Plus, given its composite composition, the Chirok should be pretty stealthy as well. However, given that many of the the UAV' systems remain classified, there's no real way to confirm any of these assertions until flight tests actually commence. Until then, you can see a brief clip of the Chirok at around the 4:25 mark of the promotional video below.

[Image Credit: UIC]