Terrorism and Technology: The Role of Drones

The Association of the United States Army recently published The Role of Drones in Future Terrorist Attacks, which investigates the relationship between technological advancements and terrorism. More specifically, the paper focuses on how terrorists can use drones to benefit their cause by increasing the effectiveness of their operations.

Drones have the ability of providing standoff, which can enable terrorists to conduct
multiple attacks nearly simultaneously, rapidly magnifying their overall effect. A terrorist attack
is meant to create an atmosphere of fear to influence a target audience—a civilian population or
government—to force or impose political change. The massive increase in the number of form
factors, capabilities, ease of access and ease of operation of drones at low cost will make them
the weapon of choice for future terrorists.

The author argues that, historically, terrorist tactics have largely relied on acquiring readily available materials and self-sacrifice by members who are willing to carry out attacks. However, terrorists are quickly adapting to a new era of aerial warfare that allows them to hit multiple targets with a low-cost drone while eliminating the need or expectation for self-sacrifice. The article cites the use of aerial weapons by the Islamic State’s in Mosul as an example of terrorists exploiting technology, warning that terrorists will continue to experiment with drones.

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