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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