“Cheap drones and countermeasures …”

“Recent developments have made it easier than ever to acquire military grade drones, and the U.S. needs to focus on developing counter-drone measures, experts said Friday at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.

“We do see this as a growing problem, because if you look at the availability of inexpensive drones, you find that the violent extremist organizations that we battle around the globe have easy access to this technology,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Ranking Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said. “They don’t need to develop anything. All they need to do is hop on Amazon, and they can buy a $300 drone that can be used against an adversary. And so it is a real concern.”

Ernst and Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo, a member of the House Committee on Armed Services, discussed developments concerning drone technology and the need for countermeasures. 

Ernst noted that China and Russia have started to focus on “swarm technology,” a concept discussed in U.S. Air Force papers and defined as “a group of autonomous networked small, unmanned aircraft systems operating collaboratively to achieve common objectives.” The goal of such approaches focuses on overwhelming a target and “saturating its defenses.” 

“It’s not just the one-offs that are being purchased on the internet, but now we have near-peer adversaries that are developing swarm technology where they can use 100 or 200 different drones — highly, highly evolved drones that can attack our service members on the battlefield,” she said.

Developing AI to better utilize such technologies would remain important as the U.S. explores these kinds of weapons as well, Crow added.” 

Comment: Absolutely. I played in a big war game a while back in which the focus was just this. The swarm thing was not the focus. What was of concern was the simple truth that with access to internet purchases one can buy the equipment to build effective drones in a garage workshop. Basically, you build a big model airplane and hang radio control equipment and cameras on it and you are in business. Here I am speaking of recce drones. One pesky problem is that the radio equipment generally available operates at frequencies that require line of sight ranges, but a system of relays seems possible. pl

Cheap drones and countermeasures: What worries experts about the future of warfare |Fox News

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13 Responses to “Cheap drones and countermeasures …”

  1. Degringolade says:

    I am writing a book now (gotta love this retirement shit) and drones are a big part of it.

    So I can look like I know what I am talking about, I decided to build a drone. It isn’t that hard now, lots of ideas out there to copy, it is kind of like an erector set anymore, you figure out what you want it to do and put together a set of subsystems.

    Lots and lots of stuff can be bolted on. I think that this is going to give a greater advantage to insurgencies in the long run.

    • TTG says:


      So you’re building a radio controlled model airplane or helicopter. That’s a good retirement hobby in itself. When I was young, I built and flew a number of flying model airplanes with balsa, tissue, airplane dope and Ambroid wood glue. Never had a radio control model, stuck with the more affordable rubber powered free flight and gas powered control line planes.

      If you haven’t already done so, check out the sites of the Ukrainian civilian volunteer group Aerorozvidka. They’re a group of hobbyists that got together in 2014 and are now fully integrated into the Ukrainian military effort doing recon, artillery adjustment and strike missions with their civilian drones. They use a lot of the Chinese DJI drones and have now modified their own firmware so the DJI tracking devices can no longer track the drone operators. They recently pointed out that the Russians also use DJI drones, but have not modified their firmware. The Ukrainians can still track the Russian drone operators with that DJI tracking devices. Shows what a bunch of skilled hobbyists can accomplish.



  2. jld says:

    Yes, the Chinese are definitely in the “swarm technology”. 🙂

  3. Rob Waddell says:


    ‘Developing AI to better utilise such technologies.. ‘ That will be the biggest field I believe. No or reduced need for radio links when the drone is autonomous.

    Kits for AI are low cost and easily available now (i.e. NVIDIA Jetson platform -$350). The kit lists applications such as “Building autonomous machines and complex AI system tasks of image recognition, object detection and localization, pose estimation, semantic segmentation, video processing, and intelligent analytics and Edge AI into the wild: UAV, drone, wildlife protection, agriculture”.

    I don’t think there will any shortage of developers for these applications or for that matter, applications.

    • TTG says:


      I know the Chinese have been going like gang busters in the AI field. In the very early 2000s, they were recruiting high end mathematicians and coders from around the world to work in their AI research. Luckily, I know of a few of our own coders who can still do circles around the Chinese. A good friend invented a new field of mathematics just so he can write better code. He does “Neuromancer” type stuff that lives, acts and learns out in the wild. I don’t know if he’s applied this to autonomous or swarm drone technology yet. I’ll probably never know, but he’s already applied it to all kinds of far ranging challenges in the real world.

      • JamesT says:

        Rob and TTG,

        I work in the field and most of us are using open source AI libraries on commodity hardware – all pretty commoditized. Where one can pull ahead is if you do a ton of feature engineering, data engineering, and model building to address a specific use case like Heron Systems is doing:

        I am highly skeptical that any country will pull ahead in “AI” but I think some platforms (eg a loitering munition that can hunt on its own) will pull ahead.

  4. Leith says:

    What is the capability of these new ‘Phoenix Ghost’ kamikaze drones being provided to Ukraine. Public info only says they are similar to the Switchblades sent previously. But those Switchblades have not shown to have done much.

    So the Phoenix Ghosts must have something else going for them. Longer duration? Better optics so better accuracy? More lethal payload? Perhaps even a swarm capability?

  5. mcohen says:

    A day after grain deal is inked to allow exports 2 missiles struck Odesa port.Russia denies it was behind the attack


    This took place on shabbat which is a day of rest some in Odesa.The wheels have come off for sure.Not worth following this war therefore I am turning my attention to Ethiopia.You remember Ethiopia Barack.The old lady who and the corn.What happened there Mr clever duck.hmmmm.all those Nobel prizes for peace handed out like toffee hmmmm.
    My friend.Everything you and your advisers touch you fuck up.

    Sunny day for flowers

  6. VietnamVet says:


    Carpet bombing and indiscriminate artillery shelling does not work against entrenched motivated troops. The blitzkrieg with close air support and armored vehicles defeats trench defenses by plowing through in depth to the rear and wreaking havoc. This worked for the Allies at Normandy but failed for the Germans at the battle of Kursk against the Soviet Union. The Ukraine-Russia war drags on because the failure of the February invasion and Russia resorting to WWI Stormtroopers tactics which never broke through the trench lines in WWI and hasn’t yet in Ukraine.

    According to the Wiki on the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, Azerbaijan’s fleet of Turkish and Israeli drones discovered Armenian forward and reserve positions, followed by conventional artillery and ballistic missiles to isolate and destroy Armenian forces. “Azerbaijan managed to inflict a devastating and decisive defeat through adept usage of sophisticated military hardware which avoided bogging down in a costly war of attrition.”

    Perhaps one reason Ukraine hasn’t been supplied with vast numbers of cheap drones to identify Russian positions is to keep the war going long enough to force another regime change on the Kremlin. But this risks a nuclear war between NATO and Russia. Or, perhaps, it is as simple as the Biden Administration and NATO are fighting WWI, once again, because that is all they can do.

    • Christian J. Chuba says:

      >>Perhaps one reason Ukraine hasn’t been supplied with vast numbers of cheap drones<<

      Is because we do not have them to give to Ukrainians. Yes, we are building drones but I do not believe our military appreciates them yet. The military is very conservative. Plus the articles I've read on defense sites sound weird to me; I don't think we get it yet.

  7. jim ticehurst says:

    Speaking of Drones AI and Things that Fly…I Read that The Pentagon..has
    Created a New Office..Its Called The AARO… As in Arrow..Its Stands for
    ALL ,,, (Domaine ) Resolution…. Anomaly…….OFFICE….

    Its Being Run By DR. Sean M. Patrick..Head Scientist At DIA….

    Its Because of The Drone Swarms…And Those UFO Objects..And Its
    Obvious They Are Probably on A High Priority THREAT List..They Do Want
    To Identify…Unlike Blue Book…and Secret Recipes…

    • Leith says:

      Jim –

      I suspect you mean Sean Kirkpatrick. He is/was chief scientist at the MSIC, the DIA’s missile TECHINT center in Huntsville AL. Those guys probably have a small detachment in Europe now scrutinizing dud SAMs and cruise missiles 9or debris) the Ukrainians were able to salvage.

  8. Christian J. Chuba says:

    I am convinced that this is the next disruptive technology.

    Drones will never replace artillery, HIMARS are great, but low cost drones can bleed an army to death over a period of time.

    Some say that the switchblade drones have been ineffective in Ukraine (don’t know if that’s true) but even if it is, so what. Just wait for version 2. Our first uses of the Bazooka in WW2 in Africa was a flop but the Germans were impressed by the shaped charge technology and developed the Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck to great effect.

    Sorry I get really jazzed over tech stuff. How can you not take advantage of small, low cost aircraft, affordable and good cameras, and massive computing power that you can use for image recognition? Give it 20lbs of explosives and let it find targets. All it has to do is to spot ‘men carrying guns’, ‘trucks’, ‘ammo dump’, … vs tree or ground.

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