Islamic State Turn Hobby Drones Into Makeshift Smart Bombs

By Hudson Hongo on at

Last week, an aerial vehicle “the size of a model airplane” guided by members of so-called Islamic State (IS) reportedly exploded after getting shot down by Kurdish forces in Iraq, killing two fighters.

“The explosive device inside was disguised as a battery,” a military official told The New York Times, “there was a very small amount of explosives in it, but it was enough to go off and kill them”.

According to Times, IS has been using consumer market drones for surveillance purposes for some time, but last week’s bombing is believed to be one of the group’s first successful attacks using a drone strapped with explosives:

In recent months, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency both rushed to complete classified assessments about the Islamic State’s drone use. And the secretary of the Army, Eric Fanning, recently assigned a special office he had created to respond to emerging threats and to study how to stop drones.

Unlike the American military, which flies drones as large as small passenger planes that need to take off and land on a runway, the Islamic State is using simpler, commercially available drones such as the DJI Phantom, which can be purchased on Amazon. The group attaches small explosive devices to them, essentially making them remotely piloted bombs.

Officials say that drones bearing explosives have been used in Iraq at least three times since last year. According to a new West Point report obtained by the Times, the danger is only expected to increase as hobbyist drones become capable of longer flight and greater carrying capacity.

“The number and sophistication of drones used is also likely to enhance the scope and seriousness of the threat,” concludes the report. [The New York Times]