As regular people purchase more drones, the small, unmanned aerial systems keep dropping in price and growing in capability. Once expensive, underpowered, remotely piloted toys with blink-of-an-eye battery life, consumer drones can now operate far more independently and for longer periods of time. They are nothing like the heavily armed fixed-wing drones such as the Reaper, which American forces have used to prosecute quiet wars across the world, but a new National Academy of Sciences report suggests that small, consumer-grade drones could be used in swarms to effectively attack American infantry with onboard bombs.
“Contrary to the past, when U.S. warfighters may have found improvised explosive devices, now the improvised explosive devices will find our warfighters," the report concludes.
While there have been occasional reports of souped-up consumer drones used in military conflicts, Russian military authorities said in January that a swarm of fixed-wing drones, which were made of plywood and loaded with explosives, attacked the country’s main air base in Syria.
“More than a dozen armed drones descended from an unknown location onto Russia’s vast Hmeimim air base in northwestern Latakia province, the headquarters of Russia’s military operations in Syria, and on the nearby Russian naval base at Tartus,” The Washington Post reported. “Russia said that it shot down seven of the 13 drones and used electronic countermeasures to safely bring down the other six.”