By 2016, ISIS had modified DJI Phantom quadcopters to drop grenades. These weapons joined the arsenal of scratch-built ISIS drones, using parts that investigators with Conflict Armament Research had traced to mass-market commercial suppliers. This tactic spread and was soon common among armed groups. In 2018, Ukrainian forces fighting in Donetsk used a modified DJI Mavic to drop bombs on trenches held by Russian-backed separatists. Today these Chinese drones are found virtually anywhere in the world where there is combat.
“When it comes to this war in Ukraine, it is truly the competent use of quadcopters for a variety of tasks, including for artillery and mortar units, that has really made this cheap, available, expendable (unmanned aerial vehicle), very lethal and very dangerous,” says Samuel Bendett, an analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis and adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
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