The proliferation of civilian drones converted into military equipment has increased the capabilities of the terrorist and insurgent arsenal. The weaponization of these drones is unsurprising because of their inexpensive price, ease of procurement, and versatility. Even in war torn regions, they are easily obtained and quickly transitioned to military use.

This remarkable drone footage shows the final impact of artillery rounds and their destructive power in an urban environment.

These drones increase capabilities such as real-time, High-Def intelligence on enemy locations. It also provides a command and control ability during combat operations. Increasingly, instances of civilian drones being modified to carry a weapons payload are surfacing and gaining popularity amongst Jihadist groups.

This drone observes the impacts and captures the ease in which this simple technology is adapted to its new role. The dramatic footage captures the last few hundred yards of a large artillery shell hurling towards its final target. The drone hovers and even remains in the final trajectory of the passing rounds. The drone’s viewpoint is nearly its demise as a round passes just a few meters from the small aircraft. This grants a truly unique perspective and frightening capability to a non-state actor.

These inexpensive drones will never compete with first world military technology. However, advanced nations should eye this evolution cautiously. Militaries will need to develop, purchase, and maintain new equipment to counter this rising threat. With the numerous conflicts in the Middle East providing the perfect proving ground, these battlefield adaptations may be ushering in a new category of the terrorism arms race.

Civilian Companies to the Rescue?
Fortunately, some in the private sector have been quietly fighting back against the Jihadists. One of the largest and most popular civilian drone companies DJI, has been helping the US Government by establishing “No-Fly Zones” in regions controlled by terrorist organizations throughout Iraq and Syria. The technology had previously been used to keep drones out of restricted civilian areas such as airports. Reportedly expanded to areas such as Mosul, the company is able to deny the use of their products and aid friendly forces.

The ability of civilian companies to limit the use of their products may additionally be a critical advantage as more US troops are deployed to the region. Hopefully, this cooperation between civilian and military will create a precedent for future companies who inadvertently create easily weaponized products.