Task Force 99—a new unit of volunteer U.S. Air Force airmen based at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar—is seeking defensive strategies against weaponized quadcopter threats in the Middle East.
“The ability to protect local populations and our bases against small unmanned aerial systems is very important,” team commander Lt. Col. Erin Brilla told the Air Force Times. team’s commander. “How can we turn that narrative around and impose dilemmas in the other direction?”
One of the plans is to deploy consumer drones for military missions.
Lightweight UAVs are definitely less sophisticated and powerful than the Air Force's MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Global Hawk drones, but off-the-shelf models are easy to find, inexpensive, and rather simple to customize and pilot. In addition, unlike the military's cutting-edge combat drones, consumer quadcopters require minimal upkeep, are small enough to be carried anywhere, and can be quickly replaced if lost, damaged, or shot down.
Most importantly, they can be deadly to an enemy.
Properly outfitted, these former toys can jam radio frequencies, undertake photo-surveillance missions, drop bombs, or sacrifice themselves to take down an enemy jet or drone.
Throughout 2023, Task Force 99 will fuse small drones and low-tech devices to gain advantages on a battlefield.
“The biggest takeaway is how cheap these store-bought UASs are," says group intelligence chief Capt. Raymond Revell. "You can employ a number of them for very low cost, and they’re attritable, so you don’t really care if you lose them or not. If you do lose them, whatever capability that your adversary has used to take down that drone likely was slightly more expensive than you fielding that drone in the first place.”