Due inexpensive, easy to operate, and difficult to



            Due to the
rapid growth of drone technology, many of these technologies are now being
commonly used in numerous non-military settings. Large-scale commercialization
of these drones by companies such as Parrot and DJI has led to civilian drones
become affordable, able to operate longer, and capable of carrying larger
payloads. The exponential pace of development of these drones in the last
decade have scramble policy-makers to create regulations on how to operate
these systems. Although the United States and other countries have benefited
from using drones for their military operations from decades, one must consider
the potential implications of drones use by non-state actors. Peter Singer
wrote in his book Wire of War, “Drones are a game-changing technology, akin to
gunpowder, the steam engine, the atomic bomb”. This is because drones can be
easily obtained, cheap, operate remotely and effective to carry out missions.

Abbot (2016) stated, “A range of terrorist groups, lone wolf, insurgents,
corporate, and criminal have use these drones to carry out intelligence
reconnaissance (ISR) and attacks”.  The
use of drones as weapons by non-state actors seems to be almost inevitable;
hence this paper will examine the hostile usage of drones by non-state actors
and countermeasure strategies to mitigate the threat of hostile drone usage by
non-state actors.  


The current economy of commercial and military drones enables
non-state actors to utilize these drones to carry out their hostile usage. There
is two principal categories of hostile usage of drones: information gathering
and to carry out attacks. Terrorist, lone wolf, organized crime groups, and
corporation can use these drones to carry out these missions as it provide a
dispensable and cheap asset to carry out the attack. In the paper written by Grossman
(Lecture, 12/7/17), he states that in January of 2015, an inexpensive, easy to
operate, and difficult to track DJI Phantom drone crashed in the White House
lawn. Although this incident is harmless, it raises security concerns to which
the United States is not prepared to accommodate drone threats. Grossman stated
that DJI Phantom drone could lift payloads up to 600 grams. In comparison, a
M67 hand grenade used by the United States military weighs 397 grams and have
effective casualty radius of up to five meters. This means the DJI Phantom
drones can easily carry deadly explosives. An article written by CNN Wire Staff (2011), where a 26
year-old American man was charged in a plot to bomb the Pentagon using model RC
aircraft. The perpetrator planned to use 25 pounds of C4 explosive strap onto a
remote control F-86 Sabre fighter. Lone wolf such as above poses the biggest
threat to national security as they could use these commercial drones to
remotely carry out their attack.   


militant group Hezbollah maintains a small fleet of drones imported from Iran,
including the Ababil and Mohajer. The first incident of Hezbollah carrying out
UAV mission was reported on November 2004, where an Iranian made UAV flew over
parts of northern Israel before returning back to Lebanon. Grossman (Lecture, 12/7/17) stated, “The unidentified drone model
flew about 1,000 feet above the ground, escaping detection by Israel radar due
to its small size and low altitude. In the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel,
Hezbollah launched three small Abibil drones, which some allegedly were
carrying explosive payload with the intention of carrying out attack in Israel.

The drones were shot down by Israel Defense Force (IDF) F-16s. Grossman
(Lecture, 12/7/17) stated in his paper that Abibil drones could reach a top
speed of 185 mph and have an operational range of 150 miles. It also can carry
a single warhead up to 50kg. Article written by David Cenciotti (2014)
proclaims that the extremist militant group ISIL was shown to be operating a
DJI Phantom drone. While many speculate that the demonstration is for
propaganda purposes only, there was also evidence written by Vice (2017)
showing that these drones were appeared to be providing actionable ISR and
attack missions. An article written by Weiss (2015) shows ISIL also posted a
video in early 2015 showing that UAV was being used for reconnaissance and
battlefield coordination during a clash with Iraqi Security Forces on Baiji Oil


and organized crime groups are not excluded in utilizing these drones to their
own illicit use. Although there isn’t much documented case of corporation using
drones for espionage or commercial advantage, the technology these drones could
carry can “create a broad range of threat scenario whereby these drones are
integrated into corporate espionage operations alongside cyber security and pishing
attacks” as stated by Abbot (2016). A reading article from Greenberg (Lecture
9, 11/31/17) states that these drones could crack Wi-Fi password, deploy a
malware payload over specific Wi-Fi networks, or even copy the data packets
that is being transmitted from the Wi-Fi.  Mexican drug traffickers were said to use
drones to smuggle drugs across the US-Mexican border since firstly documented
in 2010. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stated that there were about
160 drone trips across the border since 2012. Due to the success of US law
enforcement and DEA against drug operations in the early of this century, drug
smugglers utilize the small size of drones to carry out their drugs across the
border thus reducing the threat of getting caught. The DEA said in their recent
annual report that drones are not often used to smuggle drugs from Mexico
because they can only carry a small load, but recent years the payloads these
drones can carry have increase vastly. In August 2017, an article from the
Denver Post stated a 25 year-old US citizen has been charge for smuggling 13
pounds of methamphetamine using his custom hexacopter drone to carry the drug
to San Diego.


As long as there is a
threat for the illicit usage of unmanned drone, countermeasure must be introduced
to mitigate the risk of an attack or ISR operations.