They’re cheap, they’re light, and they can carry a small bomb: The commercial drone is essentially a new terror gadget for organizations such as Hezbollah, Islamic State, or anyone else looking to wreak havoc on a budget.
“That’s the same quad copter you can get on Groupon or go down to Sam’s Club and buy for $400,” U.S. Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller said last week at a Washington forum on future warfare. The elusive nature of small drones is one reason the federal government has designated the District of Columbia a “national defense airspace” and prohibited drone flights there. A recent spate of drone-related incidents, including one last year in which a drone crashed on the White House lawn, probably didn’t help, either.
But the problem is no longer about enthusiasts with a bad sense of direction. Weaponized to various degrees of sophistication, such unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are now being used in the Syrian civil war and along parts of Lebanese and Syrian borders with Israel, where Hezbollah holds sway.