Hamas has released a new video on Monday that supposedly shows footage of its new killer drone.
But don’t worry: the Islamic extremist robot air force of death is not about to get you. Hamas’ use of these so-called “killer drones” is part of a psychological warfare campaign rather than the beginning of new flying killer robot scourge. Their drones are tiny, and couldn’t cause much damage even if they were fully armed – which they probably aren’t.
The Hamas video shows a small drone with perhaps a 10ft wingspan, and with what appear to be four small rockets mounted on under the wings. But the exact size of the machine is difficult to judge since there is no point of reference.
Though the Hamas footage is likely genuine, the drone and its weapons appear to be little more than crudely built toys. The jerky movements shown in the video suggests that a person visually operates the drone much like a remote-controlled model plane in someone’s backyard. Further, the rockets carried by the drone are tiny and appear to be fake. Even if they weren’t, the weapons are too small to do any real damage--if they ever actually manage to hit anything.
A more likely use for the drone would be to stuff it full of explosives and use it as a poor man’s missile—or other words point it at a something and fly it into the target. But even that can be tricky.
On Monday, Hamas claimed on its Twitter feed that it mounted several drone sorties over the headquarters of the Israel Defense Forces in Tel Aviv. However, that claim is impossible to verify.
In any case, a terrorist-operated drone is not without precedent. Hezbollah has been flying them over Lebanon since the mid-aughts. Israel shot one drone down in October 2012 and another Hezbollah-operated drone in April 2013. The problem for Israel is often that the missile used to shoot the drone down costs more than the drone itself. That was the case this morning too—a single Patriot missile costs over $1 million.
As for the drone itself, some believe it to be an Iranian aircraft called the Ababil-1—which superficially resembles the Israeli Heron drone—rather than a Hamas-built machine. The Ababil-1 is roughly 10-feet long; it can carry about 90 pounds and has a range of perhaps a 150 miles. While it might look like a relatively complex machine like the Heron, neither Iran nor Hamas has the technology to built a sophisticated drone.
The physical airframe of a drone is actually very simple and can built without much trouble. The real trick is building the controls, cameras and finding the right engine. Iran has some of the technology, but doesn’t have the means to build anything to rival an Israeli or American machine.
The bottom line is that while Hamas will continue to be a problem for Israel, the group’s new killer drones are little more than a nuisance.