Military planners’ worst nightmare in the age of cheap, commercial drones is that at some point someone would weaponize them. That’s happening. The first such device, called the Velvet Wasp, can carry anything from small bombs to medical supplies. Developed by UK defense contractor SR, Velvet Wasp is a 37-pound drone with a carbon fiber frame. It can be packed, but normally it is carried by a vehicle. Ideally operated by a pilot and navigator, it can be operated by a single person. Worse, the drone is silent at an altitude of 1,000 feet and is difficult to be picked up via radar. Powered by eight propellers, it can travel at speeds up to 70 miles per hour. It carries a single hard point from which to drop weapons or supplies. It can also feature a multiple-carriage launcher. In addition, “it has a laser designator, for marking its own targets, and the control signals are encrypted to prevent someone else from hacking in and taking control of it.” It was featured at the Dubai Air Show earlier this year where it was displayed with Textron Fury, a precision-guided munition. [source] (Analyst comment: Off-the-shelf commercial drones have been used to deadly effect by ISIS and other warring factions in the recent war in Syria and Iraq; we can only imagine how much more deadly drone systems made specifically for military purposes are going to be, but suffice to say this threat is only now emerging. In a couple of years there will be armed stealth drones that will be nearly impossible to detect.)
Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.