The latest drone test exercise run by the US Army was different to most, in that instead of showcasing a brand new multi-million-dollar aircraft, it instead used a swarm of standard off-the-shelf consumer drones.
The objects of these exercises were twofold. Firstly, deploying the drones as a swarm to simulate a threat and later testing the possibility of utilizing the same cheap swarms in military operations. This would allow the US Army to adapt to the potential threats of consumer drones when used against their forces and develop countermeasures against these tactics.
The exercises included a combat simulation with a swarm of drones supporting the opposing forces, who used them to spot enemy defensive positions, allowing their forces to gain a tactical advantage against them. Another test was flooding the airspace with drones, disrupting radar with dozens of small airborne objects.
Individually, a single consumer drone is no match for any one of the combat drones used by the US Army in it’s current operations, being far more vulnerable to both gunfire and jamming. However, with costs of up to 100-times less than this specialist hardware, it becomes far more feasible to deploy large numbers, as well as allowing them to be more disposable. Shooting down one small drone is easy. Shooting down one hundred is far less achievable. And with the potential for these consumer drones to be customized relatively cheaply with longer range equipment, night-vision and similar sensors and even weaponry, consumer drones seem to be gaining a place in modern warfare.
Can you imagine the toys you see on shelves everywhere now, being deployed in war, and will this change the face of the low-cost drone market? Only time will tell.