DRONE ON… The Threat Beyond

Facing a world of constant change, continuing threats, and ever moving events among actors of terror, the United States needs, more than ever, a steady hand at the helm of state. Whether such a hand is possible under Joe Biden, whose mental capacities are shaky at best, is doubtful. His presumed VP is inexperienced, at least in world affairs, and cannot be trusted to keep America safe. Should President Trump win a second term, his ability to focus on the terror threats facing both the United States and our allies, particularly Israel must be resolute. He must be at his most presidential and he requires a legislature that is concerned more about the United States and her citizens than their own political agendas. Such would be a miracle in itself!

Thankfully, we have a military which is second to none and, if allowed to function as they are trained, our probability of defending against a major attack is improved. As always, with any attack, public forces, whether it be local law enforcement, some Homeland Security or other federal law enforcement operation, will most likely not be at the scene when the event happens.

Who will be there? Maybe you. Maybe me. Citizens of this nation, civilians mostly, will be the ones at the heart of the attack. A successful defense may well come from one or more responsibly armed American citizens.

Figure 2 Civilian Surveillance Drone

Information obtained through some of the most effective, accurate and responsible intelligence gathering resources indicates that new threats are looming large across the horizon and are coming in low and quiet in the form of drones. Those being utilized are both sophisticated militarily designed armed drones and home-brew drones used in kamikaze style attacks against assets and populations.

Sources at The Intelligence Project (IPT)indicate that: “A milestone incident underscoring the growing reliance on drones by radical actors came on Sept. 14, 2019, when a swarm of Iranian military attack drones crashed into Saudi oil installations, together with cruise missiles. Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil and natural gas company was forced to suspend 50 percent of its oil production in the aftermath. For the Islamic Republic, it was an exhibition of its new attack capabilities, and a message meant to cow Iran’s Sunni-Arab state rivals.”

The Iranian regime has promulgated terrorist capabilities providing weapons systems to co-conspirators and other terrorist cells operating around the globe. They willingly sell UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) of military grade with fully operational weapons systems to the highest bidders. Customers include, according to The Intelligence Project, “Hizballah in Lebanon, Shi’ite militias in Iraq and Syria, and the Houthis in Yemen.”

Figure 3 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

Threats from these drones can include surveillance operations and active weapons deployment by the military grade UAV’s. The threat of suicide bomber drones comes in the form of commercial drones designed specifically to bring immediate destruction directly to the target. A horrifying aspect of these drones is they are equipped with camera systems. The primary goal of these groups is to force people to alter their lives because of fear.  What can be more terrifying than to watch on social media and news platforms the repeated playing of a video shot by a terrorist drone as it sails in and injures, maims, and kills innocent civilians of all ages going about their daily lives.

To refuse to be intimidated, to continue to go about our day and to seek ways to protect ourselves from the on-slaught of terror is to rob the terrorist faction or lone-wolf wanna-be of their primary goal. Americans cannot live in fear whether it is of a terrorist cell or an invisible virus. We must continue to live our lives.

Risk is all around us. Some risk is normal everyday risk, like catching a virus. Some is brought about by our actions such as driving on an extremely slippery road in the middle of winter. Some risk is avoidable. For example, don’t go into a crowded city center when a group of sponsored hoodlums is congregating in the name of some cause, they don’t even understand. They are there either for the thrill or the paycheck.

One of the concerns for security professionals is, according to the experts at IPT, “the increasing use of commercial, multi-rotor drones by terror factions, which can be ordered online by anyone, and altered to turn into highly effective, guided weapons.”

These drones, transformed into weapons systems, can drop any type of explosives directly over military, law enforcement or civilian targets with impunity. Nearly undetectable, particularly in civilian environments, until in striking distance over their target, they would seem to be unstoppable. There are, however, weaknesses in their use which can be exploited to protect civilian populations.

Figure 4 Military Rotating Wing Drone – Surveillance Equipped

One such weakness is the requirement for rotating wing drones is their lack of accuracy unless the drone is slowed and hovering at a low altitude. 

Legally and responsibly armed Americans can take down a drone under those circumstances with a typical EDC.[i] Groups and individuals should work on learning to identify this threat and improving their capability in neutralizing this new type of threat.

In reviewing these new threats and their accessibility to terrorist cells, according to the IPT, Israeli former Air Defense Commander, Brig. General Shachar Shobat said, these drones have “been seized upon by belligerent, non-state actors to help level the playing the field against their enemies.”

According to the IPT research report, “…the threat of drones in the possession of Islamist actors is here to stay, and the race to prepare for them is underway.”

Federal, State and Municipal law enforcement agencies, the military and responsibly armed Americans need to be preparing to prevent these terrorist attacks by both organized terrorist cells and any anti-government actor who seeks to inflict fear and cause destruction and death to innocent civilians.

A word of caution is called for. Responsibly armed Americans realize the risk they take when using deadly force on another human being. Even when the shooting is justified, there can be legal consequences that must be resolved. Extreme care must be used in identifying a drone as an immediate threat to yourself or other people. Being able to articulate how you knew a drone was armed is important. Study to learn the differences between a safe, civilian drone and a modified civilian drone. Be able to articulate how you identified a drone as a hostile military-grade weapons system as an immediate threat.

  1. Size and type – a drone such as in Figure 3 is a more obvious threat.
  2. Location – public, directly overhead of everyday citizens with no apparent legal purpose.
  3. Control – not being overtly controlled on-site by persons obviously enjoying a hobby.
  4. Carrying what appears to be a payload or has already dropped some type of explosive and is still circling.
Figure 5 Drone with home-made ordnance delivery system

These are just a few examples of observations one may be able to articulate once the heat of the moment is past. This author encourages training groups such as the USCCA[ii] and the NRA[iii] to seriously consider developing a course on identifying threats from drones and how to mitigate those threats. As noted earlier, “…the threat of drones in the possession of Islamist actors is here to stay, and the race to prepare for them is underway.” It won’t be long until it is not just Islamist actors who are putting drones to use for intimidation, spying, and causing physical danger. Those groups, most usually left-wing and the ultra-right wing conspirators who probably already have such weapons-systems in their individual arsenals. Lone-wolf wackos will also be droning their way to try to make headlines for their five minutes of fame.  

This next statement will not come as a surprise, or at least, it shouldn’t. According to the website for 3DR (the maker of the drone pictured at the lead of this article), “Chinese drone-maker DJI owns more than half the global market for consumer-focused drones, but California-based 3DR is out to change that.”[iv]

American law enforcement, military, the USCCA and the NRA would be wise to connect with 3DR to learn everything they can about how to stop hostile drone threats. If anyone can stop them, the folks at 3DR are likely the ones to do it. Unless, of course, you care to ask the Chinese.

Remain vigilant. Stay strong. Do not fear. Carry on.

Always remember, you are your First Defense.

Author: Dr. Ross L. Riggs, D Min. M. Min., MPA, BS, AAS, FBINAA, CLEE, Retired Chief of Police, former international consultant on security issues for ministry teams, adjunct faculty Summit University, author of numerous professional publications and Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat


[i]  EDC Everyday Carry options include handguns in .45, .44, 38, and 9mm calibers which can be effective against these drones.

[ii] United States Concealed Carry Association www.uscca.com

[iii] National Rifle Association www.nra.org

[iv] Read More: 3DR: This is the best consumer ‘drone ever made | DRONEALITY

Published by docriggs

I'm married now 40 years to a wonderful wife with whom we have great kids and almost a dozen amazing grandchildren... I am so very blessed. My life goal continues to be a Christ-follower in every way. I have over 45 years experience internationally with crisis intervention, law enforcement and military experience, contingency planning and security consulting.

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