Off the Shelf: The violent nonstate actor drone threat

Ori Swed, Kerry Chavez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The proliferation of civilian drone technology to violent non-state actors opens a new dimension of threat to security forces operating in asymmetric conflicts. Having maintained a monopoly on airpower since its advent, states are having to rapidly reexamine the design of defense architectures and the grounded logic of combat. Though inferior to Western airpower, commercial drones narrow the parity gap by granting violent nonstate actors a large marginal utility and force multiplication. They are also uniquely effective in asymmetric contexts. We survey the empirical record to demonstrate how militant drones impact hot warzones, logistical and rear headquarters, low-intensity conflicts and insurgencies, national security, domestic law enforcement, and aviation security. Each venue entails its own actors, missions, and challenges but each also offers distinct insights into the nature of the challenge. The first step toward solutions is deeper awareness and understanding of the violent
Original languageEnglish
JournalAir and Space Power Journal
StatePublished - 2020


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