> our title:

Aerial Drone Swarms Are the Next-Gen Military Weapon

> original title:

Aerial Drone Swarms: The Next Generation Military Weapon (excerpt)

(Source: Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses; issued Feb 15, 2018)

By Atul Pant

During the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, a spectacular pre-recorded display by a quadcopter drone swarm comprising of 1218 drones left spectators astounded. Through co-ordinated and pre-programmed flying, the drone swarm made dynamic aerial caricatures depicting a gyrating snowboarder, a flying bird, Olympic insignia, etc. The drones were individually connected via radio frequencies (RF) to a central computer, which controlled the movement and position of each drone to form the dynamic shapes.

This display was carried out by Intel using its ‘Shooting Star’ drones, each of which is about a foot long, weighs approximately 250 grams, and is powered by lithium ion batteries that could keep it in the air for about 20 minutes.

This is, however, not the first time that such a display has occurred. Such swarm displays have been presented on earlier occasions as well, albeit with fewer drones. Not only have artists and aero-modellers been enthused by the immense entertainment possibilities drone swarms present, but their possible use in war has been churning in the minds of military and security strategists. Some concepts are already being tried against adversary forces and installations as well as in counter terror operations.

One significant incident in this regard came to light on January 11, when Russia’s Ministry of Defence announced on its Facebook page a swarm drone attack on a Russian military base in Syria. Some media organisations declared this as the first ever drone swarm attack. Excerpts from the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defence Facebook page read as follows:

“Russian Khmeimim air base and Russian Naval CSS point in the city of Tartus successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massed application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the night of 5th – 6th January, 2018. Ten assault drones were seen approaching the Khmeimim air base, and another three – the CSS point in Tartus. Six small-size of these were intercepted and taken under control by the Russian EW units [sic]. Three of them were landed on the controlled area outside the base, and another three UAVs exploded as they touched the ground [sic]. Seven UAVs were eliminated by the Pantsir-S Russian anti-aircraft missiles. The Russian bases did not suffer any casualties or damages.

“Having decoded the data recorded on the UAVs, the specialists found out the launch site. It was the first time when terrorists applied a massed drone aircraft attack launched from a range of more than 50 km using modern GPS guidance system. Technical examination of the drones showed that such attacks could be undertakens [sic] by terrorists from a distance of about 100 kilometers.”

The Ministry attached photographs of the attacker drones, which were fixed wing aeromodels. Russian experts found on examination of the drones that these were sophisticated and professionally assembled, and could have been received from one of the technologically advanced countries (hinting probably at the US). The drones had satellite navigation electronics and carried professionally assembled improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as weapons which could be dropped at the assigned coordinates. All the drones were fitted with pressure transducers and altitude control servo-actuators, indicating the sophistication of the technology employed.2

Though this attack appeared to have the numbers of a swarm, whether this was a classical coordinated drone swarm attack is not very clear. Since the last few years, security analysts have been saying that a swarm drone attack by terrorists was no more an ‘if’ situation, but a ‘when’ and ‘where’ situation.

This incident probably represents the dawn of drone swarm attacks. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full report (8 PDF pages) on the IDSA website.