An unidentified rebel holds the Liberator MK-2, a 3D-printed drone that was produced by a young engineer in Myanmar.
Daphne Wesdorp/Getty Images
Myanmar’s military staged a coup in February 2021, rejecting the country’s election results.Since then, nearly 3,000 people have been killed and 17,000 detained, the US State Department said.One engineer began printing semiautomatic rifles and drones to fight the military regime, per Wired.
“My parents would kill me if they [knew] what I’m up to,” he told the publication.
The engineer, who is only identified as “3D” due to the risk of facing arrest and execution, told the magazine he has been producing weapons for the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF), an insurgent group made up of young civilians like himself, since the early months of the junta’s takeover in February 2021.
Myanmar’s military staged a coup two years ago after the results of the country’s last democratic election reflected a strong rebuke against the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. The military claimed that there was massive voter fraud.
As of January 2023, about 3,000 people were killed, nearly 17,000 detained, and more than 1.5 million people displaced under the military regime, according to the US State Department.
The engineer was motivated to join KNDF, one of more than 250 active armed groups in the country after he witnessed military forces gun down peaceful protesters.
“That’s when I thought, I have to find a way to make weapons from scratch,” 3D told Wired.
Armed with a 3D printer, the engineer began making FGC-9s, a 3D-printed semiautomatic rifle, using blueprints accessible online.
In December 2022, 3D pivoted to drones that cost about $5,000 to make.
An unidentified member of the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force launches a homemade drone.
Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images
According to Wired, the engineer was inspired by Ukraine’s cheaply-produced drone named The Punisher. The drone is small, with a 7.5-foot wingspan, and can carry 3 kg of explosives.
3D’s first drone was dubbed the Liberator-MK1 and could carry up to 1.5 kg of explosives, Wired reported. The drone was deployed at Myanmar’s front lines. This February, 3D produced a second version of the Liberator.
Cheap 3D-printed drones are one of the few ways rebel groups can effectively fight a well-resourced military regime that has imported, according to the United Nations, at least $1 billion in weapons and equipment.
Nowhere is this reliance on low-budget drones seen more exemplified in today’s battlefield than in Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces have been reported to be deploying plastic foam drones typically reserved for photographers and hobbyists.
These drones, which cost a few hundred dollars each, have been seen taking out a Russian tank estimated to be worth several millions of dollars.