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Another kind of creative destruction: the technology driving drones-as-an-industry is…

…mobile phone technology!

VICE has a very interesting report, looking at at how the US military is adjusting to the astonishingly rapid proliferation and deployment of cheap drone technology. Faced with using multi million dollar weapons platforms firing munitions costing hundreds of thousands of dollars against these things, they are seeking more feasible ways to counter air threats costing thousands or even mere hundreds of dollars. And the threat is not hypothetical: even the daesh Islamic State claims fairly plausibly to be using cheap reconnaissance drones right now, and Hezbollah appears to have fairly sophisticated armed drones (fast forward to 1:25 or thereabouts to see the boom and hear the invocations to Admiral Ackbar or whatever). We really are entering a new era not just commercially but also militarily.

23 comments to Another kind of creative destruction: the technology driving drones-as-an-industry is…

  • Ever since drones have been a real thing in combat, I have waited for the moment when the news reports that some SWAT team somewhere gets obliterated in a home siege scenario because the people they are besieging deploy a drone with grenades. But why stop at one, or a swarm of 100 drones? We arent that far off from Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, where the Nation-Gang of China launches a fog of nanobots which kill anyone too unfortunate to have combat armor or a place to go indoors that is pressure-sealed.

  • It’ll be very unsettling once the Sudden Jihad Syndrome flip-outs start using these. Hear that? Is it Amazon, the police, or terrorists?

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    Recently I photoed, in a London shop window, a photo-drone on sale for under 400 quid.


    Cameras in the sky will create ructions of all kinds, let alone bombs. And I agree, if I were a terrorist I would love these things. Even unarmed, they will spread terror.

  • Oh, Brian, what should be a fun toy is going to end up being banned, isn’t it?

  • Runcie Balspune

    Given that the Iranians have allegedly jammed/hacked an American military drone, there are already known counter measures using jamming in place for simpler devices as the video suggests, the fact it is declassified probably means its a done thing.

    The video is over-exaggerating, the helicopter shooting down the drone was clearly using the chain gun not a “million dollar missile” (the Hellfire is for surface targets anyway), and I wouldn’t give much truck to the drone-jockey bragging about how his stuff is “advanced” when he reveals it comes from the stuff of cell phones, meaning the Chinese already make it in large numbers.

    One feature of a remotely controlled drone is the radio signal, which can be pinpointed, I’d guess most of the technology is in that area, being a drone pilot is going to be suicidal very soon, if not already. I bet the Israelis have already sent a few to paradise with controller in hand.

    As far as shop built drones being a threat, I doubt they can carry much of a payload, certainly not heavy explosives. Chemical weaponry perhaps, but if the terrorists have that then we’ve got a lot more to worry about than just the drones.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    “I doubt they can carry much of a payload”


  • Laird

    “I doubt they can carry much of a payload”

    Nice video, Rob.

    Anyway, a brick of C4 doesn’t weight very much.

  • Mr Ecks

    They can stuff any drone ban. The costumed (and plain clothes) thugs have them or are planning to get them–we need them too. They can spy on us and we can spy on them. Sounds fair to me.

  • Deep Lurker

    They will try their damnedest to impose a drone ban, just like they try their damnedest to impose gun bans. Because they do see them as implements of terrorism. And because they don’t believe that terrorism should be taboo. Instead, they believe that the State has a legitimate monopoly on the use of terrorism.

  • Runcie Balspune

    To be fair, that is not the kind of thing on sale at Maplin’s whichis what I was referring to. If you have the wherewithal to build that kind of monster drone then you’d be better off building a mortar or something.

  • The advantage of a drone over a mortar is: add a webcam and you have a guided weapon.

  • Runcie Balspune

    The disadvantage of a remote drone is you need a bit of intelligence to build, deploy and fly it to a target to be as effective as a mortar, this is a trait not in plentiful supply amongst the faithful, who can’t even remember to go wee-wee before setting their pants on fire.

    Plus the radio control signal telling everyone where you are, which is easily blocked, and the government have been on this case for years so it is likely jammers are already in place, if not, they can always go out and buy something.

  • Both Hezbollah and the daesh Islamic State are using drones. Right now as we write this. And many of them play video games. I think you greatly underestimate them.

  • Runcie Balspune

    They are probably using Iranian built craft. Seeing as Iron Dome can shoot down multiple fast moving missiles with increasing reliability, I doubt a drone is a problem.

    The discussion here is an SJS victim using a shop sold quad copter, not industrial/military sized UAVs operated by a well funded army.

  • Hezbollah? Agreed, almost certainly Iranian drones, hence larger and actually armed. Daesh Islamic State? No way. They probably just mail ordered them out of a catalogue.

    Iron Dome shoots down ballistic rockets, not NOE drones 🙂 Plus the cost differential must be frightening 😀

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    I wonder if this is the right forum to ask Dale about the Emdrive? It was unveiled about 10 years ago, and then disappeared, but I read (Fortean Times) that NASA seems to think it works, even if they’re not sure how. Will we soon be using Emdrive rockets? As described in the article, it seems like a more efficient ion drive.

  • Regional

    What happens when a pilotless drone goes berserk?

  • bloke in spain

    “One feature of a remotely controlled drone is the radio signal, which can be pinpointed, I’d guess most of the technology is in that area, being a drone pilot is going to be suicidal very soon, if not already.”

    “Plus the radio control signal telling everyone where you are, which is easily blocked”

    Er…we do have cell-phone networks, now. Give your drone a ring & let it know the target GPS co-ords. Where would you like to be doing your terminal guidance from?

  • Exactly. Your terminal guidance is a GPS signal and Google Maps, with the GO command sent whilst sitting in a cafe reading this months digital edition of “Big Boobed Burqua Babes: 72 Virgins Preview Edition” on your iPad.

  • “What happens when a pilotless drone goes berserk?”

    State mandated anger counselling at PC Warehouse I imagine.

  • bloke in spain

    Sorry Perry. I should have been more specific. The drone is called to give it the GPS co-ords & time over target. The drone then flies to target & calls you to ask if you want a video link to choose which window to fly into, which president to bounce. It can do the flight to target with its comms off & only boot its cell on final approach. It doesn’t even need to use the same SIM for both calls or both calls link to the same operator. Total time “up” on the cell-net, under 60 secs for finals. Chances of an identify & jam, in a city full of cell-phones, approaches zero. Or illuminate the target with a laser from a second drone & let it ride in on that. You get a damage assessment & opportunity to re-target for your money. And the drones can be pre-positioned “sleepers”. As long as they’re securely sited with charge facilities they could boot their comms to a pre-arranged signal plan & lie dormant for months. It’s nothing you couldn’t do with a few RaspberryPi’s & some cell-phone guts. Few other bits & bobs. Even most of the ware’s out there to download. Been written for autopilot apps etc.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Perry, after the anger management would come the book contract, and then the movies, called, no doubt, ‘Mad Mechs’…