Tuesday, October 2, 2018

These Aren't The Drones You're Wishing For...

h/t Bayou Renaissance Man and CDR Salamander

We've talked about drone attacks before hereabouts.
Did we ever.
So have a lot of others.

Capabilities have mushroomed, and prices drop. This is how tech goes from evolutionary to revolutionary. For all values of that last word.

The day of the drone assassin has arrived.
In November of 2017, The Daily Beast broke the story of the first illegally weaponized drone found in Mexico. It was a relatively primitive version that sported a homemade shrapnel bomb and was found in the back of a vehicle belonging to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), in the state of Guanajuato.

Then, about a month ago, evidence surfaced that CJNG had already advanced their drone designs considerably.

On July 10, the house of a Mexican public safety officer was targeted in a drone attack in Tecate, Baja California—a border city in the larger Tijuana-San Diego municipality that falls within CJNG’s established territory.

According to a new report co-authored by Dr. Robert Bunker, of the U.S. Army War College, the Tecate drone managed to drop its payload ISIS-style on the officer’s residence. Although the attack was apparently meant as a warning—since the grenades still had their safety pins intact—it also showed a clear step up in cartel-drone enhancement, including a second unmanned aircraft that conducted reconnaissance on site.

“Of the two drones, the Tecate one has far better lethality than the one in Guanajuato—we are comparing military grade grenades versus an IED,” Bunker told The Daily Beast.

“This is still an evolving global threat,” Bunker said. “The next firebreak, now that earlier ones have recently been broken in Mexico and Venezuela... would be weaponized drone incidents taking place in either Western Europe or in the United States. You can’t get much closer to the U.S. than Tecate, Mexico for an incident like this.”
There's still the occasional Baghdad Bob "expert" certain that this isn't happening (even as events and people who study this for a living tell them it already has), but some people go through life as Mayor Vaughn in Amity, denying reality while townfolk keep washing up in pieces on the beach.

Nobody's telling you to panic, or try knee-jerk bans. That horse left the barn decades ago.

FFS, my former artillery platoon commander transferred to the 1st RPV Platoon (Provisional) in 1985, over thirty years ago, when military drones were off-the-shelf homebuilts, and Israel had cobbled the tech together (along with the IAF) to wipe out every SAM site in the Bekaa Valley two years before that, with no friendly losses. In both cases, they recruited guys with civilian RC experience, and stood up units that relied on ancient engines and Styrofoam to build militarily significant machines with technology three generations earlier than what kids can have Amazon ship to their doorstep now.

Twenty years ago, we were using camera-armed drones to fly film shots that blended seamlessly with ground shots to fly a camera perspective down from 5000' to right in a window of a given house and down the hall.

If you can do that with a motion picture camera, it's obvious to anyone with two brain cells and stray voltage that you can do the same thing with a few pounds of high explosive.

And as usual, the profit motive (in this case drug money) and paramilitary desires for the perfect bomb have crossed the streams, and they're only getting better at it every day.
The progress from the drones seized in November, and the attack in July with a better version, was 9 months. Think where they'll be 9 months from now.

The question isn't whether it's going to happen, it's what's going to be done about it.
Airplanes started WWI with guys on opposite sides waving at each other, until one day some took along a pistol, then a rifle, then someone figured out how to rig a machinegun to fire through the propellers, and in under two years, shooting each other down went from ancillary effort to the entire point of the exercise. And in only thirty years (and two helpful world wars), that technology progressed from stick and fabric kites, to supersonic.

We're humans; this is what we do.

Making objects into tools, and tools into weapons is in our DNA.
Ask Abel.


Lee Van Queef II said...

It's dirt cheap delivery vehicles for NBC, not just explosives. The operator doesn't even need line-of-sight since hobby quads usually have a TV transmitter connected to the user's goggles for real time Avataring. Antifa Queers use them at their mob actions. So do the cops.

Consumer countermeasures: keep the windows shut or covered with nets, maybe a spectrum scanner for the radio control and TV signals, birdshot with a full choke to get maximum damage at maximum distance, get really good at flying your own high performance drone and hitting another drone with it. That one gets expensive.

Aesop said...

Nets will keep them out of the actual house, but it isn't getting you much if someone straps a homebuilt Claymore mine to one.
Those just make their own door.

Cederq said...

jeez... it was death from 5 feet away, now it's death from above... If it proliferates, I am sure countermeasures will be available soon to jam the radio signals.

Tactless Wookie said...

I've been flying RC aircraft for more than 20 years. I am continuously amazed at the capabilities and the ease of flight modern "drones" have. Just about anyone can fly one and master it in not a lot of time.

The "350" sized older quad copter I have can lift a payload of around 400 grams. (Yes, nearly 1 pound) I'm truly shocked this has not become more of a thing with miscreants and terrorists. Combine video and some sort of payload and you have some scary stuff. Even the micro drones are incredibly capable if only used for recon.

Pat H. said...

From three years ago. In truth, a drone with a Ruger Charger .22 pistol would be just as deadly and much more stable. Current drones are more stable in flight, too.


Anonymous said...


waepnedmann said...

I remember when the Israelis were buying their drones from a hobbyist who was making them in his garage in Tel Aviv.
We had spent millions of dollars on our drone program and the Israeli drones out-performed ours.
IIRC, our drones were not capable of performing the mission for which they were designed.
Again, IIRC, the Izzys were paying $10,000 a copy for their drones.

Aesop said...

When the USMC stood up 1st RPV(Provisional) we bought our drones straight across, from Israel. Guidance was line of sight UHF, with B&W broadcast TV signal for visuals.

They brought 150 of us into their world, flew one of their toys to our guns positions 6 miles away, gave us a 10-digit MGRS grid on their locations, and picked out all our positions, from the air, in about 2 minutes after T-O-T.

At that point, you have an FO who can waste anything he can find in 100 mi², as fast as he can whistle up the assets to destroy the targets.

Which was what Israel had done in Bekaa:
Drone 1 had spoofers that essentially said to every SAM site "Hey! Look! I'm the entire IAF"! Shoot at me!"
Drone's 2 and 3 recorded video and SIGINT on every SAM and AAA position in that valley, as they warmed up, locked on, and tracked Drone 1.
Next morning the actual IAF flew in, and wiped out the entire Syrian air defense grid with 0 losses, IIRC.

Now put that in the hands of someone on a budget, and trade, say, police cars for SAM sites. Or tracking all the BP vehicles in a 10-mile border sector, in real time. Or taking either set of targets out remotely.

And for people thinking they can be jammed, they can also be programmed to fly GPS-guided courses, and/or circle if jammed, with GPS RTB programmed at bingo fuel.

That was built into US military systems in 1985.

And you aren't going to jam GPS, unless you want to start crashing airliners into each other, and doing the terrorists' job for them.

Beans said...

Local gang criminals are already using hobby-class drones as delivery vehicles to prisons and jails. So far it's just drugs and cell phones. So far.

I've helped a guy fly an R/C in 1972 that could carry 10 lbs of cargo, he used it for taking photos of the local coral heads. (Cameras, especially with waterproof housings, were heavy way back when.) I can't even imagine what new things exist today, after seeing R/C planes the size of a Cessna 172 (seriously, a 4 engine B-17 model? What next?)

Yet there are people who still put their heads in the sand over this issue.

Some people's kids...


I'm not going to give away details publicly lest the wrong sort be reading, but there are things a drone could carry that would be way, way worse than a pound or so of explosives.

Aesop said...




If you follow the bread crumbs to BRM's, I posted things in comments in addition to just those two fictional scenarios.

I've wargamed out ways to do things that would shut down 1/4 to 1/2 of the country and bring on martial law, for under $1M, in a few days, with a couple of dozen people, tops.
It's not hard to do.
Partly because it's in my wheelhouse, and my job description, and partly for the mental exercise.

If I can think of it, some guy in a cave in the Hindu Kush already has, so the only reason it hasn't happened is because they literally don't have the resources.
Because they'd totally do it if they could.

Anonymous said...

I saw you arguing over at Peter Grant's blog (Bayou Renaissance man) with a character (Glen Filthie) who dismisses any mention of how drones can be a threat. (Since you have to register at Peters blog to comment and cannot comment as a guest, then I have given up commenting there).

Take a look at this Youtube channel - Experimental Airlines :


In particular, take a look at this video where he carries 3 x 500 ml water bottles (which total 3.3 pounds) and uses parachutes to drop them pretty much on target:


And how to make the kit needed:


Later on he shows another system operating to drop payloads:


As he said about the Skyvan airframe, it cost about $5 for the foam board and tape to make it and the technique is something that a 10 year old could easily manage. Even the goat shaggers could assemble and fly them. OK, the radio gear, servos and a nose mounted Go Pro camera would be extra but a reuseable model aircraft delivering about 3 pounds of payload is pocket money cheap.

As for Jamming, then I suppose that the USA has allocated radio frequencies for model aircraft. Other countries are almost certainly using different frequencies so if you use a non USA transmitter/Receiver, then trying to jam it may be difficult.

As battery technology and motor design gets more and more flight time out of the system then range will not be a problem either.

As for "Line of Sight" then that can be easily evaded by flying the model from inside a car using the nose mounted Go Pro to navigate the model. You need not have visual contact with the aircraft to guide it to a target and some explosive packed inside a pound of screws, ball bearings or similar for a payload of two or three pounds will definitely ruin your day, no problem.

But as Glen Filthie says, you don't know what you are talking about and those lying youtube videos are somehow fake.

Phil B

lineman said...

I've wargamed out ways to do things that would shut down 1/4 to 1/2 of the country and bring on martial law, for under $1M, in a few days, with a couple of dozen people, tops...
How about the whole country in a couple weeks, half the guys and nothing more than what we already had on hand...