Islamic State Using Small Drones Routinely In Iraq For Scouting And Dropping Explosives

from the drone-swarms-coming-up-next dept

Here on Techdirt we like to remind people that drones are not just death-dealing machines in the sky, but can also be a force for good. However, like any other technology, drones can and are utilized by the worst as well as the best. Inevitably, that includes terrorist groups like Islamic State (ISIS), as an interesting article from the Los Angeles Times reveals:

In the seven months of the Iraqi government’s drive to recapture Mosul from the jihadists, small drones have become a signature tactic of the [ISIS] group: Their appearance on the horizon, loaded with a camera, signals that punishing mortar barrages will soon be on the way. Others guide car bombs to their target, or drop small explosives miles behind the front line.

Most of these drones come from the Chinese company DJI, generally regarded as the leading drone manufacturer in terms of market share. Clearly, the routine use of its products by ISIS is not the best publicity in the world:

Reports that Islamic State had used DJI products pushed the company in February to create a geofence, a software restriction that creates a no-fly zone, over large swaths of Iraq and Syria, specifically over Mosul.

But there are problems with geofencing. First, there is the issue of when a demand to geofence certain regions is legitimate, since answering that question requires a political judgment about who is really in power. Secondly, it’s not that hard to get around geofencing, either by using quick fixes, or simply swapping to other drones that run on open source code that allows geofencing to be turned off.

Given that geofencing may not work, countermeasures are generally necessary. Those include rather crude solutions like shooting drones out of the sky with firearms, to more sophisticated ones like the DroneGun, from the Australia-based DroneShield Ltd., a company that specializes in counter-drone technology:

[the DroneGun] jams the GPS signal and radio linkages between the drone and its operator. The device, which sends out a jamming cone over a mile in length, forces the drone to either land immediately or to return to its base so that it can be tracked.

DroneShield’s CEO, Oleg Vornik, already has some thoughts on what terrorists will do next:

“we believe organizations like ISIS will begin deploying swarms of drones. If you saw the Super Bowl halftime, you would have seen dozens of drones with little lights on them moving in a choreographed fashion,” Vornik said. “That technology can be used to load grenades onto a large number of drones.”

In other words, as drones continue to develop new and potentially exciting capabilities, so terrorists will eagerly embrace them — just like everyone else.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “Islamic State Using Small Drones Routinely In Iraq For Scouting And Dropping Explosives”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Hey, Glyn, what was the point of this article? I thought it interesting and pretty well written, right up until the end, where drones develop “new and potentially exciting capabilities” that terrorists “eagerly embrace” “just like everyone else”.

Maybe I’m too sensitive, I just hate to read about terrorists being normalized with “just like everyone else”. ISIS is not like everyone else. Sharia law is not like western law. From a western view, these terrorists are really despicable, right?

Probably that’s not what you meant, right? It just seemed a little happy in the end after describing something really horrific.

Rapnel (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I gotta admit, you made me read it twice looking for “something really horrific”.

It’s like you’re afraid of terrorists. That kind of makes you a victim (although I’d prefer you kept your head, in the end, because, in a pinch, an empty meat locker can be used for vegetables).

Besides, we can just declare war and shoot them, anywhere, right? Works good.

Believe it or not, terrorists are “just like everyone else” : humans, susceptible to external stimuli and capable of reacting accordingly. Good god man, you’re a couple of notches above a monkey. Step it up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, you are a breath of fresh air, much nicer than my other critics.

The Super Bowl analogy I thought was horrific, and like I said, maybe I’m too sensitive. Easy to visualize, squads of drones dropping granades.

About the terrorists, IMHO, they declared war on us, and on our culture. Their barbarism is totally without limits, public beheadings, stoning gays and adulterers to death, that kind of thing.

I don’t see that ISIS terrorists are “just like everyone else”. I mean, we used to burn witches here in Massachusetts, but we got over it. Now, it’s considered inappropriate to burn witches, right? Same for stoning people to death, right, especially for having the sexual relations of their own choosing, that’s right not, agree?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Do you think people are incapable of acting shitty?

They’re people. They do things you and I don’t. That’s why we’re pretty peeved at them. We do things they don’t. That’s why they’re pretty peeved at us.

I mean, hell, we have people in our country who shoot up churches. Not a lot of them, but they exist. I really think we’re basically cut from the same cloth.

Fortunately, just like us, ISIS terrorists are relatively vulnerable to bullets.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

We declared war on the terrorists.
In fact, we INVADED their cities and killed their loved ones too!
No wonder they hate us so much.

I’d hate any foreign government invading my city and killing my loved ones. I’m sure you would too.

So there you have it, terrorists are just as much human as you are.

If you seek peace then maybe you should start by encouraging peaceful solutions.
If you think there is no peaceful solution and Islamic Extremists all need killed to solve this problem please refresh your knowledge of WWII so you can learn from instead of repeat mistakes of the past.

P.S. You are much more likely to die in an automobile related accident than to get killed by an act of terrorism.

Fear of terrorists is irrational.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It is an apt metaphor. Terrorists are like everyone else — if you expand everyone else to include the US government, who also suveils and bombs people via drone. I’m not condoning ISIS’s actions, but facts are facts: terrorists weren’t the first to try these things and they won’t be the last either. If terrorists are using drones for a purpose, you can bet governments have been doing it as well. And sooner or later, some disaffected maniacs will try the same thing too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

This has NOTHING to do with value systems and everything to do with combat tactics. Your attempted comparison is irrelevant nonsense.

One of the basic tenets of military tactics is that adversaries always learn from each others’ successes and failures. Sometimes it takes a while; sometimes it happens very quickly. This is just another example of it. Having observed the use of drones by the US and its allies for years, ISIS have correctly reasoned that these are effective, low-cost/low-risk surveillance and weapons delivery systems…so they’ve deployed them in the field.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

… or perhaps the “just like everyone else” statement was a bit sarcastic? Tongue in cheek? That’s the way I read it.

I realize there are some out there who have difficulty recognizing sarcasm, satire or other such (sometimes) subtle digs, but some people take select items literally because it suits their purpose while manipulating other items into something they are not. It is difficult to determine who is doing what for what reason, so many just fall back upon their tired stereotypes and assume they know what is going on.

Rapnel (profile) says:

We should regulate the air and apply penalties to any producers of air when air is found to be responsible for materially supporting or providing a platform for anything using air in a way we don’t like. And we should geofence it too. And monitor it. And suck it up with a big air-vume. And we could distribute that air fairly to airtists so that they can produce more, air. .. but that’s too leftist, isn’t it? Or is it.. I’m torn.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Thank you, I actually do feel like a foreigner here. Humor is always difficult to assimilate into, it depends on some many underlying assumptions and beliefs, without them there is no humor. I’m working on it though, I hope to improve my understanding over time. Maybe sometimes I think something posted is stupid or terrible, when in fact it’s just humor, and I don’t get the joke.

Happens a lot here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Ok, you seem nice, help me on this one. This is funny because it is not possible to invent Email? That doesn’t seem likely, there was a time before Email and after Email, so it must have been invented.

It’s funny because someone else invented Email? Wasn’t there a news article about who invented Email? That Shiva guy, right? This is funny because Shiva said he did it but actually someone else did it, right?

Seems like a question of fact for a jury to decide, no? Or is it undecidable, is that it? Or meaningless? Or unclear?

I’m sure this is funny to someone somewhere, probably many people, on this site. Right?

Rapnel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I… Uhm.. No. What I was going to say was that my friend invented text messaging and he gets all that fine ass. I get what? Two horses and a kid, a wagon with one fucking wheel and a fucking pendulum that swings both ways. It’s not fair.

Actually, it’s a little weird you’ve kept me here this long. Are you a bot? I almost had a bot once. I would’ve banged the shit out of it had it shown up at the agreed upon location at the agreed upon time, for sure, all out, but no, I got bot-blocked, black-listed, the no funnel tunnel. Bots are bitches without teats. A lot like terrorists, actually, but there is an extremely fine line, isn’t there? I would bang a rebel bot, I must confess.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Did you have a left brain mishap producing a little aphasia? You remember that guy with the nail in his noggin? Was that you?

Just kidding, I know you mean well and are a nice person, you just seem to always substitute something sexual when it is not appropriate.

Other that than, you have a lot of very interesting opinions.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Cue Some US Politican Accusing DJI Of “Supporting Terrorism”

I remember a few years ago there was some hoo-hah in the US over the fact that so many of these “terrorists” or “freedom fighters” (depending on which side they were on relative to you) were using Toyota pickup trucks. Some politician was trying to suggest that there was some unholy plot on the part of Toyota, when really it was just jealousy that US-made pickups were not seen as good enough.

No doubt we will see the same sort of thing happen again…

Anonymous Coward says:

Future War™

Uh, I meant, “Contemporary War” (not trademarked).

Any publicly available technology will be employed by the “bad guys” as well as the “good guys.” [The quotes emphasize my general fuzziness on the distinction between “bad” and “good,” since for every barbaric act on one side, there exists an atrocity committed by the other.]

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