U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that ISIS may also use drones in terrorist attacks, based on congressional testimony on Tuesday.
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, director with the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the terrorist group has started using “unmanned aerial vehicles,” aka drones, for both surveillance and attacks.
“In days gone by year, ISIS’s usage of unmanned aerial systems (drones) for surveillance and delivery of explosives has increased, posing a whole new threat to civilian infrastructure and military installations.” Stewart testified.
Although the group has utilized drones about the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, Stewart’s comments came after a discussion of the worldwide threat presented by ISIS and the way it might expand, and soon following the terror group released a youtube video highlighting its usage of drones.
Stewart didn’t disclose any technical information about ISIS drones, but another U.S. intelligence official said the group has been using off-the-shelf products and even hobbyist aircraft configured with cameras and makeshift bombs.
The official described the ISIS drones as “Frankenstein concoctions” tasked with “surveillance, dropping ordnance and disturbing adversary’s aerial assets,” like helicopters.
Just a week ago, ISIS released a 44-minute video largely focused about the battle for Mosul that also includes copious drone footage. The theme in the video is ISIS innovation, with drones essentially the most prominent example of how ISIS research and development will continue to thrive despite admitted losses of territory in places like Mosul.
Drones watch from above as ISIS suicide bombers driving explosive-laden, heavily armored trucks execute twelve attacks on coalition armor. The drones keep to the armored trucks, or suicide tanks, while they sidle as much as moving tanks and detonate, or burst through security cordons at military depots and inflate multiple vehicles. In one snippet, a drone is also shown diving right into a target.
Shawn Henry, co-founder of the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike along with a former FBI official, says the drone footage itself also serves a military purpose. Packaged inside a slickly produced propaganda video, it dazzles would-be jihadis.
“It’s useful in recruiting, it’s helpful in radicalizing, it’s helpful in fund-raising,” said counterterrorism analyst. “Their attacks are typical to some extent to accomplish those sorts of things.”