The threat posed by the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) commonly referred to as drone is on a steady rise as more non-state actors like terrorists acquire more of them. Terror organizations are increasing purchasing drones that have varying capabilities and that can be used either for surveillance or mount attacks especially on soft targets. The threat has especially increased as terror organizations emulate cartels especially in the Americas who use drones to deliver drugs without detection.
It is important to note that the advancement in technology is affecting all avenues including terrorists who can now use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to move the war away from the war zone in the Middle East and instead attack targets abroad that have troops fighting insurgencies in the conflict area.
The threat has further been accelerated by the attempted assassination of Venezuelan president in August 2018 using UAVs laden with explosives. Additionally, terror groups such as Hezbollah and Houthi rebels in Yemen have reportedly used a drone to ram into Saudi air defense system. That together with incidents that indicate terrorists use drones surveillance, reconnaissance and recording attacks for propaganda purposes heightens the threat they pose.
Factors That Increase Threat Caused By Drones (UAV)
- The retail availability of the systems
- Lack of verified identification requirement to procure or operate
- General ease of use
- Prior use of drones overseas by state actors fighting the terrorists
- Increased commercialization of the drones especially to deliver goods.
The use of drones by nations in the Middle East and Africa that are marred corruption and other governance increases the risks of the UAVs falling into the wrong hands. Some of the most at risk are passenger planes, government buildings and mass gathering that can be targeted by drones armed with explosives and or grenades.
Factors That Could Influence Terrorists To Use Drones
- They are a cheap way to attack without risking personnel
- Cheap to acquire as they cost as low as $1000
- They are harder to stop as they are operated remotely
- They can hit a larger target without tipping the hand of the terrorists thus enhancing the guerilla effect preferred by jihadis
- Gives terrorists and air force increasing the threat to include both aerial bombardments and ground combat
- Governments, especially in the Middle East and Africa, are ill-equipped to deal with the new threat.
- They are portable and as such can be used to transport to transport explosives, grenades, IEDs as well as chemical weapons.
Although there may be instances of small successes, it will be of no consequences and that such threats will be countered eventually. Counter-drone systems have been developed which can be used to jam the signal and or down the UAVs and as such prevent as well as allow authorities to disarm the drones. Also, countries are implementing laws and regulations that are aimed at reducing the risks of the threats posed by the UAVs by creating a system that will be used to track down purchases and erect rules of operating the drones.