🔮 Sunday Commentary: Send in the Drones

We’re now familiar with how well the Ukrainian armed forces can use drones in their mounting defence against the illegal invasion launched by the Russian Federation. One key story has been about the Turkish TB2 Bayraktar. This drone, while costing $5m a piece, is cheap by military standards.

As I wrote in Exponential, the TB2 has cut its teeth as a low-cost weapon, occasionally being 20 times cheaper than some American drones. I also identified that the consumerisation of drone technology has enabled civil drones to take on military uses. Kurdish and Houthi forces have used consumer drones against Turkish and Saudi targets in previous years.

In the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict, Azerbaijan used the TB2 (and other drones) to devastating effect. I’ve argued that this demonstrates “the men- and-materiel approach of the twentieth century was vulnerable to low-cost exponential technologies.”

The Ukrainians have taken this to a new level. Remember the Russian “column” of military vehicles snaking towards Kyiv to deliver whatever malevolence its commanders had in mind?  

Now it seems that the column was stalled by Ukrainian intervention, specifically  by the Aerorozvidka unit, “which began eight years ago as a group of volunteer IT specialists and hobbyists designing their own machine.” These drones were MacGyvered together with small explosive charges, sufficient enough to destroy the lead vehicles in the convoy and create a traffic jam.

Aerorozvidka is also handy with social media marketing, setting videos of their operations to the moody rap of Ukrainian artist, Skofka.

Drone race

The success of these increasingly cheap and consumerised drones is no longer a secret. If Aerorozvidka’s claims are correct, their small operation, supported by crowdfunding, may have stopped a meaningful proportion (A tenth? A twentieth?) of the entire Russian Army’s mission to commit atrocities in Kyiv. A dramatic example of force multiplication. Who wouldn’t want some?

In the Exponential Age, methods, protocols, and tactics will be studied and copied. This will drive down costs and increase the prevalence of these weapon-bots.

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