Enemy drones can form swarms of hundreds of mini, precision-guided explosives, overwhelm radar or simply blanket an area with targeting sensors before launching massive attacks. They can paint or light up air, ground or sea targets for enemy fighters, missiles or armored vehicles, greatly increasing warzone vulnerability. They can increasingly operate with less and less human intervention and be programmed to enter enemy airspace, crossing into well-defended areas with decreased risk. Finally, perhaps of greatest significance, many of them can now fire weapons.
Commercially available attack drones now proliferating at alarming rates around the world. Not only are they easily purchasable on the commercial market, but they are rapidly becoming more and more advanced given the lightening speed at which technology is now advancing. Video can be gathered with much higher fidelity at longer ranges, navigational systems can more accurately merge with sensors and targeting technologies and larger numbers of drones can increasingly operate in tandem - in a more coordinated fashion. Battery technology, to cite another example, is progressing so quickly that drones are increasing dwell time over targets, complicating any effort to defend against them.
The pace of technical change, and its implications for attack drones, is well captured in a 2017 Essay in an Air and Space Power Journal called “AIR MINES: Countering the Drone Threat to Aircraft.”
“Moore’s Law states that the processing power of electronic devices doubles every 18 months. By 2025 the currently widely proliferated “quadcopter” drones and their successors will have the capability to fly autonomously—at much higher altitudes, with longer flights—and be capable of complex formation maneuvers. These advances may happen soon since drones are already making strides in these areas,” the essay states. /National Interest