(Washington, D.C.) – When confronted with a swarming drone attack, defenders need to operate with the understanding that each mini-drone could itself be an incoming explosive, a surveillance “node” for a larger weapons system or even an electronic warfare weapon intended to disrupt vital command and control systems.
Defenders under drone attack from medium and large drones need to recognize that the attacking platform can be poised to launch missiles or find targets for long-range ground based missiles, air assets or even approaching forces. Modern technology enables drones to use high-resolution sensors and targeting systems to both find and attack targets at very long ranges, thus compounding the threat. Drones can increasingly operate with less and less human intervention and be programmed to enter enemy airspace, crossing into well-defended areas with decreased risk. Many of them can now fire weapons with little human intervention, due to technical advances in autonomy.
For instance, should an Army armored convoy be “moving-to-contact” with an enemy, consisting of heavy, medium and light combat vehicles supported by dismounted infantry – they might be vulnerable to a fast -emerging drone attack from multiple angles. It might even be an extremely sudden attack emerging from an obscured location such as behind a mountain.
Many counter-drone systems now under development by the Army and its industry partners such as Raytheon, are engineered to address this kind of circumstance; they are designed to use new applications to destroy, jam or disable attacking drone swarms as well as medium and even large-scale unmanned systems.
Not only are attack drones easily purchasable on the commercial market, but they are rapidly becoming more and more advanced given the lightning speed at which technology is now advancing. Video can be gathered with much higher fidelity at longer ranges, navigational systems can more accurately merge with sensors and targeting technologies and larger numbers of drones can increasingly operate in tandem – in a more coordinated fashion. Battery technology, to cite another example, is progressing so quickly that drones are increasing dwell time over targets, complicating any effort to defend against them.