Weaponized Commercial Drones: The New Threat

A Washington Times article (2017-10-25) reported that the weaponization of commercial drones is rapidly becoming a reality with a recent confiscation of a drone coupled with an improvised explosive device (IED) in Mexico. The article reported the seizure of the “kamikaze” drone from four men likely connected to Mexican drug cartels. Drones are regularly carrying contraband such as drugs across the US-Mexican border.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, in the United States, drones now outnumber all other types of registered aircraft combined. There have been instances throughout the nation, including in Maryland, of drones attempting to deliver contraband and weapons into prisons or local jails.  Commercial drones are relatively inexpensive, easy to obtain, and easy to weaponize with small explosives or toxins. From the Times article:

“A weaponized drone/unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)/unmanned aerial system (UAS) with a remotely detonated IED allows for a precision strike to take place against an intended target,” Robert Bunker and John P. Sullivan, the authors of [a new security analysis by Small Wars Journal], wrote. …

[Mexican] 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. …

“Two years ago this was not a problem. A year ago this was an emerging problem. Now it’s a real problem,” Nicholas J. Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

In Maryland, counties cannot regulate drones due to the General Assembly passing legislation in 2015 that preempted local authority.