The Other Chaps Drones

I know I have been harping on about this for ages now, the proliferation of cheap but increasingly effective UAV’s or ‘drones’

When happens when the the other chaps get hold of them

Pirate Party Lands Drone At The Feet Of Angela Merkel

Police used tear gas and water cannons in Bangkok on December 1 in an effort to disperse crowds of protesters who had gathered at the headquarters of the Royal Thai Police and at Government House. It said crowds had also surrounded three television stations. These videos show drone footage of protesters and security force clashes at the Government House in Bangkok, where police barricades can be see

While NATO countries fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) high above Libya, none of these UAVs, or the vital intelligence they provide, was available to the Libyans fighting to free their country — they were fighting blind. So, they got one of their own. The Libyan rebels have been using the Aeryon Scout Micro UAV to acquire intelligence on enemy positions and to coordinate their resistance efforts. This video gives sample photos and video from both the Scout’s daylight and thermal payloads


You don’t need to be Albert Einstein to appreciate the implications for military and security operations

Did someone say shotgun


H/T War News and Red Trousers

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December 11, 2013 10:40 am

Whilst I am sure the cavalrymen will love an excuse to take their Purdeys to war surely this is a pretty simple task for electronic warfare experts?
Blocking the control frequencies and/or any data downlinks wont be difficult and would presumably quickly push the level of complexity needed above your average local rebels and geeks?
Also maybe a role for the laser wotnots that Abramovic allegedly has as anti-paparazzi gear on his yacht, which detect and blind the CCDs on cameras?

December 11, 2013 10:57 am

Also not sure how a shotgun is going to help you bring down a drone hovering what looks like 300 feet up, 400 metres from the target, and moving at 20 mph. I’m sure RT is a dab hand with his Holland & Holland (or whatever) but that’s going to be a bit beyond even him. Shotgun won’t help unless the drone comes right down and flies next to you.
EM would be one option. Or something like XM-8 – a relatively small, man portable or vehicle mounted weapon that can fire proximity-fused munitions. A baby AA gun, basically.

December 11, 2013 11:03 am

EM? EW, even. Sorry.

December 11, 2013 12:09 pm

@a: wasn’t the XM-8 the H&K G36 US variant? Perhaps you mean XM-25?

December 11, 2013 12:32 pm

Yes, that’s the one – the smart grenade launcher. I got muddled because they were both bits of that next-gen infantry rifle project. Sorry again.

December 11, 2013 12:39 pm

Think it’s best to let the fly boys handle air defence, especially since UAVs are under their coordination too. It would be rather expensive and embarrassing to shoot down your own UAVs, especially since infantrymen and IFVs don’t come with things that read IFF. Since the air force knows where their own UAVs are, they’ll know which ones are NOT theirs and need to be removed.

This means an Apache’s 30mm or a UH’s door gun preferably or failing that, a high speed flyby with a FJ. Knock it out of the sky with turbulence.

“Ooo… a UAV!! Ours or theirs?”

December 11, 2013 1:33 pm

EW is probably the best option right up until the opposition uses an onboard computer (raspberry PI?) to simply fly a series of waypoints taking pictures of the area in a grid before heading to a pickup point where an SD card with the pics can be removed. I think this interesting simply because even deployed against a first rate army who then smokes the drone with a MANPAD there then comes a question as to economics because MANPADS are a bit expensive and these sort of drones are not, especially when you don’t even know if that drone in particular has a camera on it.

A company many people may be familiar for making model hobby rockets is Estes. They have a series of cheap rockets (£5-£20) that the higher class motors can put up enough thrust to get to a thousand feet. Tacking a bunch of ribbons to the rocket as streamers with little holding them on could well tangle the blades of one of those drones if it hit, which would be an effective kill.

Admittedly primitive, but a battery of launches might get lucky, and at the end of the day they are cheap as chips.

That, or i’m wondering how much it would cost to make a passably effective guided missile by adding a raspberry PI for an onboard computer, a camera for image recognition targeting/correction and a set of controllable fins. Interestingly, it occurs to me that such a home made SAM would be to primitive to be thrown off by decoys such as flares, chaff etc if deployed against something more advanced. Of course, if your going to that level of complexity then you’d then want to consider a warhead, which i’m sure is shockingly illegal if done by civilians.

Interesting considering what can be made more or less off the shelf these days!

December 11, 2013 1:44 pm
December 11, 2013 3:11 pm

EW is probably the best option right up until the opposition uses an onboard computer (raspberry PI?) to simply fly a series of waypoints taking pictures of the area in a grid before heading to a pickup point where an SD card with the pics can be removed.

Sure, that would work, but then you’re losing flexibility, you can’t tell the drone to circle around and watch something that looks interesting, and you can’t look at the images until the drone gets back. (If it even gets back at all.)

Think it’s best to let the fly boys handle air defence, especially since UAVs are under their coordination too

Not all of them. Especially not the smaller ones – like Black Hornet or what a sergeant major of my acquaintance persistently referred to as Dessert Hawk. Those are under army control, and might even be held at company level – if not now then in future.

December 11, 2013 3:17 pm

@a “Not all of them. Especially not the smaller ones – like Black Hornet or what a sergeant major of my acquaintance persistently referred to as Dessert Hawk. Those are under army control, and might even be held at company level – if not now then in future.”
Then they can just use their own drones to id and even shoot down the enemy quad copters using bb guns! A tiny little air war thought by soliders hiding away from each over flying tiny rc planes with go pros on, whats not to love!


You think that a squaddy when faced with a tiny quad copter floating over his head isnt going to try somthing with his Dessert hawk even if it is just ramming

December 11, 2013 3:22 pm

Interesting idea, but one big flaw. If you brought a box of about 200+ disposable blindfire rockets of dubious usage along, that is also space and weight that you are not using for 30mm ammo, ATGMs, 105mms etc. It all eats into the limited carry weight and space of vehicles. Might be better to do a one shot kill, even if more expensive, than to lug along 200+ low probability hit weapons. I really rather the air force do the air superiority role, but if really forced, an EO missile would probably be your best bet, and your Exactors or Starstreaks would do a good job on them.

A Wildcat with someone sitting by the door with an MG would be the cheapest and simplest solution. If you can spare the helos of course.

Ace Rimmer
December 11, 2013 3:26 pm

How about a portable/hand held EMP device?

December 11, 2013 3:27 pm

You said cheap UAVs? And electronic countermeasures? I give you the home-made electronic warfare UAV:|NSNS|2012-GLOBAL|tech#.UqdGreJG2xh

Take one UAV and a Raspberry Pi – add the Pi to the UAV – run aircrack-ng on the Pi and tell it to look for the MAC range used by the maker of a well-known quadrotor. it hacks the WLAN command link and starts relaying your messages to the target. omg zombie dronez.

December 11, 2013 3:59 pm

Lol TD, that video in December?

“especially since infantrymen and IFVs don’t come with things that read IFF.”
Actually, there have been laser+RF based IFF tools been developed for AFVs and infantry many years ago (and some introduced with AFVs) – they’re just not in widespread use because we have no war of foliage-clad AFVs (moving piles of conifers*) fighting on battlefields against each other. We might see this stuff in service soon if there’s a re-orientation towards conventional warfare.
* such as this, for example

December 11, 2013 5:24 pm

Actually I did point out last year that our enemies might be more likely in the future to shop at Maplins rather than BAE. And that some obvious synergies exist betwen readily available kit that only Needs a warhead to become a guided weapon.

Given their vulnerabilities as a breed, by arent we doing it? For low level stuff.

December 11, 2013 5:25 pm

“A Wildcat with someone sitting by the door with an MG would be the cheapest and simplest solution. If you can spare the helos of course.”

Why waste ammo? Just give the door gunner a big net on a stick. Capture it, fingerprint it, download the GPS location it is going to return to (it would be naughty to replace the camera with a little explosive surprise and let it go again…)

I think you would want blanket EW jamming. Otherwise you run the risk of enabling reconnaissance by fire – the bad guys will know the good guys are where their drones go missing……

December 11, 2013 5:41 pm

SO, that and the fact that ground terrain is so messed up that radar is almost useless in many terrain, which also implies that long range detection and interrogation of unit ID is rare and nearly useless very often.

Inversely, some IFF would have been nice to avoid the friendly fire incidents during the Gulf Wars.

That also depends on the amount of bandwidth that can be allocated for this sort of thing too. Every RF frequency earmarked is one that can’t be used for C4I.

@a, those are tactical level UAVs more or less, their effects are fairly local and manageable in a war. It’s the strategic ones that you need to shoot down fast, like your Watchkeeper or our plain vanilla Hermes or things like Reapers and Preds.

@Ace, a friend of mine was involved in a project like that, a Van De Graff generator used to damage a room of electronic items. From what I heard, it would have a very limited range, a large size and needs to be plugged in to work, and for very limited effect, so it was a no-go.


Good idea, you go stick yourself out of a moving helicopter with a net trying to catch another moving airplane with an exposed propeller and the potential to ram you for a wonderful tradeoff of 3 enemies killed and a valuable helicopter destroyed in exchange for no lives lost and a relatively cheap UAV destroyed.

Just shoot the bloody thing.

December 11, 2013 5:53 pm

Observer; some such systems have coded laser interrogation (using a laser which is optically widened into a suitable cone similar to duel simulator lasers) and radio all-round response (functionality can be integrated into intra-squad radio).

RF = radio frequency; also “radio”, not only “radar”

December 11, 2013 7:06 pm

@ Observer

Tbh, I was thinking more usable in these civil wars in the east where it’s probably easier to buy civil equipment (or get such “toys” shipped in) than it is to buy an SA7.

As a general question, would a heatseeking MANPAD actually be able to lock onto one of those things? Remember they haven’t got onboard engines with a nice exaust plume. It’s got a battery and piddling little motors so theres not going to be much heat generated.

Even if a MANPAD can do the job it’s going to be quite costly. From that point of view, the things could easily be used as harassment along the lines of Operation Outward in WW2- launch lots of cheap non things not requiring strategic materials that have to be shot down with expensive things that are a bit harder to replace.

I think results would vary on that, It’d cost us loads because we do everything as expensively as possible, but I can’t see that the Russians or anybody using their kit would care too much. They’d just give it a nice short burst from a Shilka or whatever the replacement is and shrug.

December 11, 2013 7:26 pm

If you did get into net catching then the opposition would put anti handling on drone and they get your helicopter.

Again as with anti ship these things are so cheap that you could saturate defences and/or use to locate positions by finding source of counter fire.

December 11, 2013 7:33 pm


It’s all interlinked. The point on radar is that if you do not detect things at range, then there is no real need for a long range radio identification signal is there? With the increase in network centric warfare, I can see it coming into service soon though.

An RPG-7 would do the job nicely. Those things have a self-destruct fuse that blows it up at the end of its run. That was how they got the Blackhawks at Mogadishu and it also gave the Israelis hell in Cast Lead, they used the fragmentation to drive the IDF infantry into cover behind tanks.


Agreed, which is also why I believe helicopter based hunter killer teams may be the way to go as getting killed by a prowling helicopter does not guarantee the presence of enemy forces, the helo is not likely going to be there in the next 10 min, so it’s a wasted datum.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 11, 2013 10:00 pm

It’s a hell of a problem, and no shot guns are not the answer. Anyone who has tried to shoot down MATS-A target drones knows that’s bloody difficult as well. And UAVs are following a sort of Moore’s Law, so smaller, cheaper, more available to non-state players.

I think we can also somewhat reduce the scope of the problem. Leave “proper” UAVs to proper air defenders. Have a sensible policy on what sort of surveillance threat is worth revealing our own assets to destroy. That alone will reduce the number the land forces have to deal with.

I don’t think EW is the right way ahead, certainly for quick reaction. The EW battle is very centrally controlled as well. The last thing anyone wants is all sort of active jamming going on willy nilly under the control of silly young subalterns with more testosterone than common sense (I know something about that).

I think the answer is something cheap and kinetic, but not explosive. Basically, knock it out of the air. And while this might initially sound crazy, something that is a mashup of a Schermuly, go pro type of camera and the wire guidance simplicity of a Milan missile.

A 1000 metre range Schermuly is going to be maybe a metre long. Stick a go pro onto the nose, send video to a small tablet down a trailing wire, send guidance back up the wire. I think you could get that lot together for £5000 in production.

Odd concept, but worth trialling at least I’d have thought. Certainly a fun trial to do.

December 11, 2013 10:44 pm

In the dim distant 1980’s we drew a distinction between a “drone”, which was launched and then followed a pre-programmed route which could not be altered, there was no link to the ground. It then returned home , one hoped,
and the camera was unloaded and the film developed, or the video tape reviewed.
The new alternative was a “UAV” which was ground controlled and in the early days carried a video camera which had a data link to send live (then black and white) images to the ground station.
With progress has this distinction been lost, are the terms drone and UAV now interchangeable?
I ask because I am now so old that I still think in these terms.

dave haine
dave haine
December 11, 2013 11:02 pm

RT’s comment about using a schermuly to bring down little uav’s reminded me of a time when i watched bearded bunny huggers capture some birds for some counting and hand-wringing experiment. They used this rocket deployed net, which was basically a multiple warhead thing which up about 50 m then some mini rockets fired deploying a 10m square net. I wonder if that would work? Satisfyingly bangy and accuracy not too required.

Incidently, they were very open to me asking lots of questions until I wondered aloud wether it could be used to stop hunt saboteurs, then it got a bit frosty and they went off muttering…some people are very touchy….

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 11, 2013 11:38 pm


Good inventive thinking.

Stopping hunt sabs was not usually that difficult. Meet somewhere different to where you publicised. Also they tend to get discouraged when their car tyres mysteriously deflated. No local garage would respond to requests to assist. It was normally a numbers game. They would be boxed in and unable to take their cars anywhere.

December 12, 2013 2:32 am

RT, I do agree it’s an interesting idea, cheap EO kinetic-kill rockets, but don’t you think that for every one of these rockets we carry, we have to give up an ATGM reload or LAW for it? How many can we practically carry before our entire payload is duck hunt rockets? Even an infantry section only carries 2 LAW tubes, trading one for an anti-UAV round cuts your anti-tank firepower in half.

My opinion is that the problem is best solved through existing systems, which are probably the Starstreak, Rapier, some CTA fire, Exactor and maybe the Javelin. The popular conception is that UAVs are everywhere, but the reality is that even a recce company providing support for a brigade probably only has 3-6 of the Desert Hawk type UAVs (3 deployed in 3 UAV squads-1 per platoon, 3 as backup for losses), which means that any lost UAVs would be a fair fraction of the surveillance assets lost, which in turn demands more circumspect deployment.

December 12, 2013 6:01 am

“UAV” was not in use during the 80s and rarely during the 90’s.
UAV and UAS are fantasy names made up by the Pentagon; pentagonese.
I just checked “Jane’s Weapon Systems 1984-85” and it calls everything “drone”, “RPV”, “mini-helicopter”, “aerial target” or, one item, “UMA” (apparently ‘unmanned aircraft’) as part of the developer’s designation for it. Not a single “UAV”.
RPV were the remotely piloted ones, drones were the ones with more emphasis on the autopilot.

Shotguns can be the solution to low-flying drones and land drones. Their use of ammunition is much more reliable and economical than spraying the target with 5.56. You need small arms as defence against drones because it’s easily possible to develop a 1 kg drone with an EFP/frag warhead which seeks out infantrymen and attack them kamikaze-style. We did not pay much attention to this because it would be useless in our wars of occupation.

“As a general question, would a heatseeking MANPAD actually be able to lock onto one of those things? ”
Modern ManPADS use thermal cameras and are not simply heat-seeking. Their primary reference is the warmth of the aircraft body (due to friction, engines and electronics) and some can sense the UV spectrum at the same time to better ignore decoys.
The ability to lock on would depend on the size of the target and the distance. You can in principle lock onto a motorcycle driving on a mountain with these things.

December 12, 2013 9:02 am

UAS is the official NATO term, we called them drones back when Adam rode a bicycle (well the early 1960s).

They are only going to get smaller, what’s more they are also going to take up perching, (according to the DCDC paper published a couple of years ago). Perching micro UAS will be very difficult to spot, but you might be able to catch them alive, (will need to provide multi-lingual abuse training for all soldiers to get the message back to the owners).

As RT said the model a/c used as AAAD targets proved to have a very high survival rate, and this was at ranges of very few hundered metres. Of course for the professional GBAD with msls there’s a minimum range problem, and the Starstreak three sub-munitions warhead would probably give a fairly good chance of a smaller UAS slipping through the cracks as it were. For small UAS at hundreds of metres perhaps its a target for snipers! However, the structure of smallish ones such as DH suggests that it’s vulnerable areas are quite small and with the material used bullets probably go straight through with no effect, impact fuzes may not function, neither may prox fuzes because there’s not enough solid stuff to reflect the signal. There’s no doubt this is a difficult problem, Heli with fishing nets? Maybe a Brocks special with a big expanding net warhead is the way to go.

December 12, 2013 9:57 am

It is true the term UAS is recognised in NATO and is in AAP-6 (glossary of terms and definitions) the UAS (system) invariably includes a UAV hence they are not either/or choices of terminology

In the NATO AGS project the term UAV is widely used

Likewise in the taxonomy of UAs

December 12, 2013 9:58 am

Somthing like this should be very easy to cheeply manafacture on mass. You could send a wave of them through a town and build a digitial map. Accruate gps is not neccasry, there is a guy in my bulding doing a phd in navigating quadcopters using landmarks like a door frame or picture frame.

December 12, 2013 10:23 am

those are tactical level UAVs more or less, their effects are fairly local and manageable in a war. It’s the strategic ones that you need to shoot down fast, like your Watchkeeper or our plain vanilla Hermes or things like Reapers and Preds.

I dunno about that. I’d be just as worried about a tiny UAV that was spotting me for mortar rounds as a big UAV that was lining up a Hellfire. Not to mention that, through networking, the tiny one could be talking to all sorts of people all the way back to strategic level.
The big ones are effectively just aircraft, without a pilot – and much slower and less manoeuverable than manned aircraft as well. So they can be safely left to the air force. But the small ones – especially perching and/or autonomous types, looking further forward – are something quite new and different, and that’s where the problem is. They’re not effectively aircraft; they’re effectively birds. Which aren’t easy to kill, whatever the weapon… ask any gamekeeper.

December 12, 2013 12:46 pm

Of course, we might be looking at this from the wrong direction.

Instead of worrying about shooting down the drone, how about triangulating the position of the controller and then putting a Mortar/JDAM into the person controlling it?

It might be a bit cheaper, and possibly more effective at getting people not to use them.

December 12, 2013 2:14 pm

Good plan. But drones will get more and more autonomous as they get more advanced, and the more autonomous it is, the quieter the controller can be. At one extreme, you might have something like you suggested earlier, that flies a pre-programmed route and beams video back. The UAV’s broadcasting all the time, but the controller can be completely silent unless he needs to tell the UAV “hang on, that building seems interesting, leave the programmed route and go back and orbit it”.

The other problem might be that, especially in a low-intensity or urban environment, there would be a working cellular phone network, and they could be using that. The phone-controlled drones available now use a direct Wifi link to your phone, but I don’t think there’s any reason why you couldn’t use a cell network instead. And then it would be immune to DF. The control signal’s effectively laundered through the mobile phone network.

Plus, ROEs: you might not be allowed to just DF a hostile signal and bung a few mortar rounds at it unobserved.

December 12, 2013 5:18 pm

a, operationally, those mini/micro UAVs don’t usually have much range. Sure, someone can call a stonk on you from 8km, but the range of those small UAVs are usually only 1-2km. This also means that operationally, it’s no different from being spotted by a forward observer. By the time people know you are there so that they can launch the UAV at you, they would also have known enough to call for indirect.

All those UAVs give you is not unit location, but fine details of specific personnel disposition and some overhead views. Valuable if you were pushing an infantry advance into a built up area, not so much for arty fire.

December 12, 2013 5:30 pm

The bird’s view is very valuable.
You can see behind buildings and walls, behind tree lines and patches of woodland, into drainage channels, behind track beds … forward observers – even scout helicopters, giraffe tanks and artillery radars – are restricted to line of sight instead. A FO may have 500 m LOS while a simplistic drone on autopilot may return with imagery from suspicious locations kilometres away.
The principal late Cold War German drone project – KZO Brevel – was specifically meant to give bird’s view to the artillery.

December 12, 2013 6:05 pm

SO, I know. The point was that those are fairly largish drones. I believe the Brevel you mentioned was vehicle launched? The manpacked ones or the micro-UAVs don’t really give much range. Even the manpacked drone is the size of a large bergan, which eats into a squad’s load as someone else needs to carry your spare uniform, food, water etc. And you do not set up and launch the drone at random locations, you only launch them when you have a definite objective or target, which means that in reverse, if you see a drone overhead, it means that there is a recon squad within 1km and that they already knew you were there and are just gathering up the fine details.

And why the hell did they chose the bloody overweight Panasonic Toughbook as the damn UAV controller I’ve no idea. Bloody thing can be used as a close combat weapon, enough metal on that to be used as a truncheon. Whatever happened to “light” infantry?

December 12, 2013 6:32 pm

I’ve got a 10 years old “Jane’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Targets” and as an example the backpack-portable Dragon Eye (predecessor of Raven):
max level speed 65 km/h
endurance approx 45 minutes
That’s fairly typical.
Speeds vary approx 45-90 kph, endurance 30 (rechargeable) to 90 minutes with backpack-sized hand-launched drones.

I think it’s safe to say that a 10 km mission radius is easily possible nowadays and radio range is the actual limiter if you want real-time recce.

December 12, 2013 6:57 pm

SO, stats is one thing, operational usage is another. Maybe we have not really pushed the limit of what our equipment can do yet, but currently practically, we don’t operate to that range, 1km is the average. As you say, maybe it is possible and it may be time to update our SOP, but it’ll take time to develop and experiment with the protocols. We got time to take it step by step. No hurry.

December 12, 2013 11:37 pm

It seems that Rheinmetall has demonstrated a 30kW high energy laser mounted in a Skyshield turret against assorted air targets although it took 10 secs to deflagrate a 81mm mor round.

While mini-UAS of the DH class may use ‘broadcast’ control signals, I’d assume that tactical UAS such as Watchkeeper use a highly directional ground-air comms, very difficult to triangulate the sources of these as long as the sidelobes are prevented. Not forgetting that antenna remoting is an effective counter-measure against accurate position finding (this is why UK formation HQs remote their commheads several km from the HQ position). Airforces will only get involved in AD against UAS if the UAS are flying outside GBAD range or it has been found that GBAD is not effective against UAS but a/c are. Against tactical UAS GBAD probably is effective, but mini and micro UAS are another matter altogether, and manned a/c will have zilch effect on these.