There's a provocative piece in the current issue of the AUVSI's offical magazine, Umanned Systems. It asks how likely it it is that terrorists will use UAVs, which is as you might imagine is a question that comes up quite often for those of us in the open source UAV world, where we don't restrict who uses our technology.

The article notes that UAVs are not the best choice for terrorists delivering explosives, given their complexity and relatively low carrying capacity, but does raise the issue of UAV-distributed chemical and biological weapons. It quotes Vann Van Diepen, then the Department of Defense's acting deputy secretary for nonproliferation, warning in 2002 that UAVs "are a potential delivery system for weapons of mass destruction and indeed and ideally suited for the delivery of chemical and biological weapons, given UAV's ability to disseminate aerosols in the right place at the right altitudes."

But others quoted in the article are less concerned. Wayne Morse, president of American Dynamic Flight Systems, a UAV maker, said it's unlikely that terrorists would choose UAVs. "It doesn't make sense. UAVs are very complex and terrorists want to terrorise. How can you best do that that? If you have people willing to kill themselves, that's what terrorizes. So why aim UAVS at the Super Bowl when you can have somebody walk up and self-detonate before they go through stadium security and cause mass panic?"

Renting a Cessna would allow a terrorist to carry a much larger load, much more simply, Morse said.

The article is available as a pdf to AUVSI members. BTW, joining AUVSI costs just $50 a year for individuals, and comes with a free Unmanned Systems subscription. Highly recommended!

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Comment by Alex on November 22, 2009 at 2:30am
Interesting article, but I tend to agree with wayne morse, in terms of destructive purposes, but what about if terrorists used them for basic aerial surveillance?
Comment by brakar on November 22, 2009 at 9:05am
If up against a regular army, I assume it might have worked the first time used. The second time I would suspect one of two things to happen:
1. UAV brought down, by bullets, electronic warfare, lasers or other means,
2. Terrorist blown away when picking up UAV
Comment by george on November 22, 2009 at 9:19am
War on Terror = Hoax
Comment by Patrick Egan on November 22, 2009 at 10:42am
There is evidence that contradicts the premise of this notion.
Comment by Mike on November 22, 2009 at 11:19am
Patrick, what notion?

When people can fly airliners into buildings without hindrance - I dont think an amateur UAV is a major threat...

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Comment by Morli on November 22, 2009 at 11:49am
IMHO, Why add fuel to fire now? Have enough hinderance and opposition from faa , aaf, abcd and who knows who else, but we all know the available tech in public forum is still far from presision targeting solution required for Mr. T's intentions, futher more other simple and almost zero failure tech is availble to them which we see/hear every now and then. So pls, lets move on, however keeping periferal vision open.
Comment by Patrick Egan on November 22, 2009 at 12:25pm
The "notion" is that this tech is beyond the scope of adversarial interest. This is the old fuel that started the fire. The technology is low hanging fruit when viewed as a threat and exacerbated by the lack of a powerful lobby.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on November 22, 2009 at 3:32pm
I'd ask that the usual rules of DIY Drones apply in this discussion: no politics (let's refrain from talking about "Republican" views), no nationalism (or antinationalism) and no personal attacks. This is a sensitive topic, which is all the more reason to stress the need for a constructive and respectful discourse.

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Comment by Morli on November 22, 2009 at 4:37pm
80+ lines of text above could be= 150+ line of AP/IMU code
and surely Jordi & other coders/debuggers would appreciate such help , wish I could help with some coding. :)
BTW I was impressed with one of OSD recently. downloaded and tried to read the spanglish manual , felt so sorry that some day soon , I will try to translate it to some thing better that ppl like me can make some sense out of the manual. No Pun or disrespect intended but I am sure our energy & time could be better spent than debating on non AP hardware/software related R & D .
Comment by Patrick Egan on November 22, 2009 at 4:37pm
Partisan politics aside, this discussion is moving away from the reality of the situation. We are no longer in a war on terrorism. The right war as it was called during the election cycle is now what I like to call a “shooting” overseas contingency operation. Again dogging the real problem which is/are the manned aviation interests. I wholeheartedly agree with the statements about us losing the technical edge and bring it up at every possible opportunity.

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