Country Risk

Iraqi forces use weaponised commercial drones

16 March 2017
A still from an Islamic State video released on 8 March shows three DJI Matrice 100 UAVs that were claimed to have been shot down in Mosul, as well as two 'shuttlecock' munitions of the type seen being used by the Iraqi Federal Police. The munitions are hung on the UAV by their rings and released using a simple remote control actuator. Source: Amaq

The Iraqi Federal Police (IFP) has become the first government force known to have used weaponised commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), copying a tactic that is being increasingly widely used by the Islamic State militants.

The IFP released a video on its Facebook page on 2 March that was filmed by a UAV as it dropped improvised munitions, purportedly against Islamic State targets in Mosul, where the heavily armed police force is playing a major role in clearly the western side of the city. The munitions were stabilised using plastic skirts taken from shuttlecocks.

The IFP released a longer video on 12 March showing IFP personnel arming two similar munitions, loading them on to a DJI Matrice 100 quadcopter and then controlling the UAV from a ground control station as it dropped its small bombs a few meters from its aim point at a road junction in a built-up area.

The IFP said the new tactic allowed it to avoid causing civilian casualties and damaging infrastructure.

Priced at USD3,300 without a camera, the Matrice 100 is a relatively expensive commercial UAV that is pitched more at professional users than hobbyists. DJI promotes it as a "fully customisable and programmable flight platform that lets you turn your ideas and dreams into reality".

It is designed to carry payloads weighing up to 1 kg, making it a better weapons platform than the cheaper DJI Phantom quadcopters that the Islamic State has been using to drop improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are only designed to carry GoPro-type cameras. The Matrice 100 can hover for 13 minutes with a 1 kg payload when using the standard battery.

The Islamic State indicated that the IFP's UAVs are vulnerable to ground fire when it released a video on 8 March showing three that it said had been shot down by its fighters in Mosul.

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