Drone warfare is a form of aerial warfare or marine warfare using unmanned combat aerial vehicles or weaponized commercial unmanned aerial vehicles. Drone attacks can be conducted by drones dropping bombs, firing a missile, or crashing into a target. Drones are prevalent in the Middle East and have increasingly become part of the conflict in Ukraine, which stared as an old-fashion classic artillery conflict but is now rapidly evolving into a drone war.
The drones are ubiquitous, and they destroy everything. Small drones, or seeds in battle slang, are already hunting individual soldiers. A 155 mm shell costs the U.S. Army $3,000, and it can’t change course. A small seed drone costs $300 to 400 and can maneuver. Its payload is much smaller, six pounds max, but what if it is a cumulative charge that strikes a tank from its rear? A small drone can fly over the tank and peck at the junction between the turret and the main body. There is not much of a chance that a gun will hit an advancing tank. However, there is a 30 percent chance that a good drone operator will hit a tank. A drone will sometimes have an advantage over a Javelin anti-tank missile, too. A Javelin needs line of sight, but with the drone you just fly it until you see the target.
At the beginning of the conflict, the M777 howitzer was a gamechanger for the Ukrainian army. Now, the moment it fires a shell, a counterbattery radar will pinpoint its location, and a Russian Lancet UAV drone can take it out. The Swedish Archer is also very powerful in the current conflict. It has wheels instead of tracks, and a multiple-round simultaneous impact mode, meaning that it launches several missiles in quick succession on different trajectories so that they will simultaneously hit one location. It makes itself scarce while the missiles are still in the air. In this new type of warfare, wheels have total advantage over tracks.
The drone revolution started out of desperation and the dearth of shells, with Ukrainian volunteers operating cheap drones. Drones were built in garages all over Ukraine. There are over 200 varieties of them, built with cheap Chinese assembly parts, queues lining up for the popular ones. With Ukraine now on the defensive, small drones have become crucial in efforts to hold back Russian forces. Ukrainian forces are using drones to immobilize armored trucks and soldiers on foot. Russia has been smart and made huge investments in drones of all kinds.
With the introduction of artificial intelligence for drones, the importance of the driver will be irrelevant. Drones are also getting more powerful and have longer range. Warfare is clearly evolving and changing. With more intelligent and powerful drones, the change will happen rapidly. Unlike conventional drone warfare, which is vetted and controlled by human operators, the new drone wars will be more automated. Human-machine collaboration will pervade nearly every stage of the targeting cycle, from the selection and identification of targets to surveillance and attack.
After all, drones are more effective than soldiers and they can already do a lot. Surveying and monitoring large areas can be difficult using traditional means. The drones can also perform highly detailed 3D mapping with built-in artificial intelligence and integrated software can help in various functions, from search and rescue to 3D mapping. The processed data can even be sent and shared in real-time. Such is the development of warfare and the conflict in Ukraine has become a new kind of warfare with increasingly sophisticated technology.