Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Welcome To My Nightmare

h/t Bayou Renaissance Man

Well, color me unshocked:
A couple of weeks back, Peter noted that hobby drones could and would be weaponized.

I agreed.
No shortage of jet-fuel geniuses were certain that it couldn't happen, because reasons, and "the payload capacity can be measured in grams".

Well, so can an 800 pound gorilla, Genius.

Now comes news that we're there.
$#!^, meet fan:

(CARTELISTAN) Mexican police discovered four men carting a kamikaze drone equipped with an IED and a remote detonator last week, in what analysts say is an example of cartels figuring out how to weaponizing UAVs.
The disturbing development is a manifestation of something top American security chiefs warned Congress about earlier this year, when they said they feared terrorists would begin to use drones to attack targets within the U.S.
Drug cartels had already been turning to drones to smuggle their product into the U.S., and had begun using IEDs in their turf struggles — but now at least cartel appears to have put the two technologies together, according to Mexican reports analyzed by Small Wars Journal.

The drone-IED combination was found in central Mexico, by federal police who did a traffic stop on a stolen pickup truck with four men in it.
Police found an AK-47, ammunition, phones and what the Small Wars Journal authors said appears to be a 3DR Solo Quadcopter, which retails for about $250 online. Taped to the drone was an IED, which could be trigger by remote detonator.
As Peter further noted in today's post:
The hobby drone referred to at that link, the 3DR Solo Quadcopter, costs only $199 from online retailers such as  It can carry a payload of 1.1 pounds, according to its user manual - and Mexican drug cartels were obviously using that capability to the full.

1.1 pounds.
The weight of a US M67 frag grenade, with the pin pulled, helpfully snuggled into a cut open half of a soda can.

Rig a tip over/release mechanism, drop from 390' AGL up and it detonates on impact. A bit higher gets you an airburst.

A few of those, and you can beat the Vegas shooter's tally in seconds.

We won't even talk about some whackjob terrorist waiting for a press conference on the South Lawn of the White House. Or some future Inauguration on the Capitol steps. The Secret Service has to be sweating bullets the size of goose eggs about now just thinking about that security nightmare.

Do one with 1# of thermite and a fuze, and exactly as I noted in comments at the earlier post and you can take out a fully-fueled jetliner queued up for takeoff.

Or a space rocket launch.

Or an armed strategic bomber back on nuclear alert (like we're phasing back in, right this minute).

Do the same thing over a fuel tank, and you get one helluva fire.

Do half a dozen in the Wilmington/San Pedro refinery farms south of L.A., and you start more fires in five minutes than the entire county could put out in five days.

Freeways at rush hour? Times 10 or 20 locations at interchanges?

How about someone taking out a few power distribution station transformers, and wiping an electrical grid off the map?

Do it at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal (or wait for Long Beach CA or Cove Point MD LNG terminals to open up in a couple of years), and you unleash the equivalent of an atomic blast.

For the cost of $200 of drone, and $50 of chemical components, using a cell phone trigger that's been in use in SWAsia since before 2002. And now found in Mexico. (Found by accident, and unlikely to be the only one; it's just the first one we know about.)

We won't even talk about what a pound or so of C-4 would do. Let alone several dozens of them. (World Series? Superbowl? Malls at Christmas? Wall Street at the opening bell? A handful of FAA Center air traffic control buildings, simultaneously? The imagination boggles.)

So where's the genius that assured us a coupla weeks back that the carrying capacity on these things was measured in grams?
Yeah, turns out that would be 500 grams, to be precise.

Every invention in human history has been weaponized, in about 0.2 seconds. Hobby drones are no different.

And as fast as Amazon can think of using them to deliver a package, and we can think of the reasons why that might be a bad idea, Dirkadirka Imawannajihad on Bakalakadaka Street can think of a few hundred reasons why it's perfectly suited to his purpose.


And the new price of a precision-guided munition has been dropped to $200, available on Amazon.

As sold.
As weaponized by Mexican cartels.

Sleep tight.


Pawpaw said...

Any idiot who thinks a drone cannot be weaponized has never heard of the Air Force's Predator? C'mon. I know that they're talking about small, recreational drones, butif the USAF can figure this out, we can too.

A frag grenade fits nicely into a wide-mouth Mason jar. Just sayin'.

Aesop said...

I purposely didn't name the genius in question, but his comments are still up from the 10/3 post at BRM.
BTW, a mason jar would be heavy; whereas an empty soda can would be nearly weightless by comparison.

And a homemade thermite bomb in a soda can? There's people who do it on YouTube all the time. Nothing illegal either, it's just a science experiment/welding project, until you start dropping them on Other People's Stuff.

Then it's pyrocomedic international terrorism. God help the folks who'll have to figure out defenses for this stuff.

I saw it all as low-hanging fruit when Peter posted it the first time, no great leap of genius, just a short distance between two obvious points.

Thugs gonna thug, and bombers gonna bomb.

Jim Scrummy said...

Related article.

Jonathan H said...

I still say that 1 charge this small will only be a problem if the people on the ground are stupid to begin with - like when the Ukrainians dropped a hand grenade into a Russian weapons depot and ended up with lots of secondaries.

LNG tanks on ships have enough insulation that a single grenade wouldn't cause a large secondary; it could cause a leak in a pipe if targeted well, but that would be substantially smaller.

When you have an article on a successful attack causing significant damage, then I'll agree it is a problem with the magnitude you say.

Aesop said...

-10 points from Gryffindor.
If I'm going after LNG, I'm not dropping a piss-ant frag.

I'm using a thermite bomb, which will burn through the piping or the tank, and then it's goodbye to a few square kilometers, and everything inside them.

At which point, once the flames die down, and they can approach the smoldering wreckage, it's a wee few hundreds of millions of dollars and several hundred to several thousand people too late to admit there's a problem.

And why would you assume it'll only be one, FFS? I, myownself, could bankroll one or two dozen tomorrow out of my bank account, and I don't have oil sheik terrorism funds at my disposal.

Start thinking swarms of them: five, ten, twenty.
One guy in one van could do 5 for $1K, a couple minutes apart, and set half of the refineries south of Los Angeles on fire, in a blaze that would last for days.
They hit a chemical plant, and the hazmat evacuation alone would make the Florida exodus from a hurricane pale in comparison.

For a stinking $1K, and twenty minutes' effort.

Thinking this is no big deal is like the guys on the first plane hijacked on 9/11, who figured they'd be hostages, right until they flew into the WTC.

Nobody's saying run around like a headless chicken, but this is anything but an imaginary problem.

George True said...

How about two dozen of these $199.00 Amazon specials simultaneously delivering their 1.1 lb thermite gifts to various key locations at the new NSA data storage/fusion center in Utah? Now you're talking! This new and cheap technology could also become the Deep State's nightmare.

loren said...

Easy enough to interfere with the drone radio signals on a localized level. If I was running a ahzmat location or base, I'd have signal locators and jammers ready to go i not already in action 24/7.
My guess is the powers that be (excepting politicians) have already thought of this and a few other things not being talked about.
Don't confuse an opinion based on casual knowledge with reality.

Anonymous said...

ISIS was reported using these in the siege of Raqa last year to drop grenades on the opposition.

Regards from Georgia


Aesop said...


The .Gov generally has half the capability we imagine, and 1/10th the competence.
It is impossible to measure their precise incompetence with existing instrumentation, but absent asking the government to estimate it themselves, it cannot be overestimated.

Any time you catch yourself thinking "They've got this" with respect to TPTB, hit yourself in the head with a ball peen hammer until that opinion subsides.
Just for two examples, until last month, we had the vague notion the Navy could sail ships, and the Army could filter out communists. Because the DoD is supposed to be the one place where "they've got this".
Yeah, no. Not even that.

Bear in mind I'm only going on the basis of about 250 years of documented performance.

And as soon as you jam the signals, they just start pre-programming XYZ coordinates on a chip.
Offense/defense is an endless loop.

I suspect, as in most military fields of endeavor, the best counter to drone attacks will be hunter-killer drones, just like with snipers, tanks, submarines, etc. ad infinitum.

RandyGC said...

GPS chips are small, light and already in most commercial drones. Which is why jamming their RF control frequencies might not have any affect. And unless you want to mess up the commerce. air traffic etc. of an area you are NOT going to run jammers (RF or GPS) continuously in the vicinity any but the most High Value Targets, so we're back to detection and reaction time. And even if you have jammers, well, not to go into too much detail, think Wild Weasel.

Anonymous said...

There's been quite a bit of footage from Syria/Iraq showing various factions dropping frags and other charges from hobby drones. One appears to get a fortuitous drop right into an open T-65 hatch with resulting conflagration. Footage of recent ISIS arms captured had an assortment of hobbyist drones and what looked like large rc aircraft.

Speaking of rc aircraft, people have been putting explosive charges on the things since they got powerful enough to carry a firecracker. I'd be surprised if there are many very many boys who were into rc planes that didn't build or buy at least one with the specific plan to pack it full of explosives and blow the thing up. People have even mounted firearms on rc planes. Difficult thing has been controlling the platform. They're hard to fly and harder than you'd think to crash into anything but very close targets. A drone or rc aircraft with live video feed or GPS guidance is a leap in capability. Also makes flying rc planes much more fun btw.

Mike_C said...

> the best counter to drone attacks will be hunter-killer drones

No, eagles 'cause Murrica! Or The Netherlands. Whatever.

Aesop said...

How many eagles ya got, Mike?

Sam gets the first drone, and explodes in a flaming ball of feathers.

Then Dirkadirka sends the other four drones in, and accomplishes his mission.

Aloha Snackbar and saturation for the win.

The original doofus from BRM has now taken to doubling down on gainsaying, and new butthurt yapping about how he's going to "rebut" this. I'm tempted to steal a march on him and do it myself, as someone with zero experience flying a drone, but no matter how it's done, I don't want to spend a day or so explaining to stern-looking gentlemen in cheap shoes and narrow ties that it was all to demonstrate the threat, and not to teach or dress-rehearse it.

The sense of humor about such things runs into the single-digits of percentages.
I hear.

Matt Bracken said...

I believe a comment above is mistaken, it was a Russian drone landing a thermite grenade upon a critical spot within a Ukrainian ordnance depot. The video is pretty incredible. Amazing leverage from a small drone and a thermite grenade. Don't miss this video.

Jamming will not work when the internal guidance can fly the drone to a designated point withing 10'. Good enough for grenade vs. crowd work.

And keep in mind when dealing with open air stadium events the real killer will be the panic stampede, so even a true grenade is not needed. A simple can of spray paint releasing a mist over the upper decks would be interpreted by the most fearful as a poison gas attack, leading to mass hysteria and a panic stampede. Forget about jamming if the drone is set off on a predetermined course.

Unknown said...

One more reason never to go on a cruise.

Unknown said...

I suspect you're aware, but in Donbass a thermite bomb made some problems for a Ukrainian army depot:

Unknown said...

Also across my social media feed today,an attack against a socialist "art installation":

Cactiki said...

Best comment ever!

Anonymous said...

Causing multi-billion dollar damage to the Demokratik Peoples' Republik of Kalifornia doesn't even require that level of technology. A number of 2-man teams driving around SoCal during the Santa Ana Winds could start enough fires to engulf most of it in a conflagration the likes of which haven't been seen since Dresden. The recent fires (probably) weren't arson, but they sure destroyed a lot of property and killed people.

Aesop said...

Actually, the recent fires were arson, by one of the sanctuaried illegal aliens so beloved of our socialist would-be overlords.

If any federal lands were burned, I want the FedGov to bill the state for the firefighting costs, at retail rates.

When stupid hurts, you get less of it.
That's why it should be fined, and not subsidized.

Anonymous said...

Back when I was a mere youth, a kid a bit older than me used a RC model of a Dauntless Dive Bomber to drop an M-80 onto a rivals RC boat model. This was in the 60's so nothing new under the sun. While drones and larger RC planes and Model Rockets fall under the purview of the FAA, their non, GPS control freqs come under the FCC some of which are/were mixed in between some of the older CB 26-27 meg a hertz spectrum

DaShui said...

Better yet hit OxyContin factory in the 3rd opium war!

Anonymous said...

Radio controlled drones are detectable and jammable. Add an autopilot, and now we have a proper delivery system.

Aesop said...

Yeah, and that detection and jamming equipment is...where, btw?
Oh, wait, you mean no one has any except the military, and its use violates about 47 federal and state laws?
Great plan. While you're wishing, wish up world peace.
If you imagine there's anyone anywhere looking for drone attacks right now, I have a bridge for sale, cheap.

Meanwhile, open source software allows anyone to pre-program waypoints, making drones able to be completely self-piloted.

Anonymous said...

Detection and jamming: misuse of ham radio technology. Yes, currently only in use by military, but by no means "unavailable".

Aesop said...

Right; just functionally unavailable, for any practical use. You might could protect the White House and Pentagon, but you can't protect 20,000 soft targets in 50 states 24/7/365.

And if you did, Hadji just starts smuggling 82mm mortar tubes and burying them in backyards like the IRA did, or putting them inside cube vans and semi trailers, making them near-impossible to track down.

Which is easily "solved", by turning the entire country into the most draconian police state in history.

At which point you create 50M "terrorists", most of whom live next door to you.

(cf.: pyrhhic victory)