US allies have used Patriot missiles to shoot down consumer drones

By Shawn Knight · 10 replies
Mar 15, 2017
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  1. From focused radio waves and trained eagles to high-powered net launchers, law enforcement, military and security firms around the globe are actively exploring all sorts of ways to deal with rogue consumer drones.

    Some methods, however, may fall into the category of overkill.

    General David Perkins, Commander of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, revealed during a recent military symposium that a “close ally” dealing with an adversary using a quadcopter drone opted to shoot it down with a Patriot missile.

    Used by the US and others, the MIM-104 Patriot is a surface-to-air missile that costs around $3 million each. They’re typically used to shoot down full-sized aircraft and ballistic missiles, not small consumer drones that cost a couple hundred bucks each.

    As the BBC explains, however, the method may not be as moronic as it initially seems.

    Recent reports claim that some groups are arming consumer drones with weapons and using them against security forces. By using a Patriot missile, you’re absolutely obliterating the drone and its payload, thus potentially saving lives in the process.

    Knowing that, it makes a bit more sense to see why someone would essentially blow $3 million to dismantle a cheap drone although as Perkins reiterates, the economics behind it aren’t great. In fact, the general said that if he is the enemy, he’d get on eBay and buy as many cheap drones as possible and use them to eat up the adversaries’ supply of Patriot missiles.

    Lead image via Reuters

    Permalink to story.

  2. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 1,877   +1,298

    Autonomous interceptor UAVs will be relatively commonplace within five years..DARPA is field testing some really nice prototypes. The next step will be drones that track down the controlling signal. Hopefully they'll be weaponized.
  3. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,274

    Why should the military care how much a missile costs? It's the hardworking taxpayers responsibility, and privilege, to pick up the tab.
  4. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 747   +357

    Trust me, it was overkill. At $3mil/missile, using Patriot to defeat a $300~ quadcopter/drone was a stupid idea.
  5. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 3,362   +2,008

    Wow ..... that is an improvement on my old pump shotgun but costs a bit more ....... LOL
  6. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,177   +990

    At first glance, absolutely, but consider when it's your father or son that's on the front line and has that drone overhead in a firefight, the issue changes significantly.
    Kibaruk likes this.
  7. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,287   +903

    You can never put a price in someone's life. If it's aim is to just blow something out of the sky, ok it sounds like overkill, if it's to save someone it doesn't.
  8. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 747   +357

    Consider that the price of the missile limits the number you can buy compared the number of drones you can buy. Defenses can become over-saturated, and the cheaper you can accomplish this compared to the cost of the defense, the greater your advantage. This is actually the main concern when designing a defense system. If you build a system that is 99% effective at a multi-billion dollar cost, it is still worthless if your enemy can field a system that is 50-80% effective at only a multi-million dollar cost (or in this case, just $300 - let's round up: $500). You need to find the right balance of cost and effectiveness, because the best weapon on the planet means nothing if you can't afford to use against whatever your opponent can field.

    For the price of 1 Patriot missile you can buy 10,000 drones. Lets cut that number of drones in half. No nation is spending 15 billion on Patriot missiles alone to combat consumer drones. Let's say they only bought 300 drones: no nation is spending 300 million on Patriot missiles alone when they are only going to be used to kill targets that cost $300. Those missile are better spent on defending against Scud/ballistic missile attacks and general air defense - attacks that put significantly larger groups of people at risk.

    For a real potential drone counter measure, look up "Department 13", a Maryland company is building a system designed to remotely take control of any consumer drone without using jamming technologies or crashing the drone.
  9. Robertrogue

    Robertrogue TS Enthusiast Posts: 28   +9

    This is the common thought when it comes to the spending of taxpayer money. "If it saves one life". Why not save a life while also saving money? A consumer drone can be taken down by any small caliber weapon or with signal interrupting equipment. Using a $3 million rocket to destroy a $300 drone is like using a Ferrari to knock down a tree. A waste of money and not the right tool for the job.
  10. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,287   +903

    That's awesome. In the meantime, although awesome it's just a concept and not useful.

    Ok, but what happens if it's loaded with some sort of explosives and it drops into something populated? I'll follow by quoting the article:
    This is the objective, not just taking it out of the air.
  11. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 747   +357

    More than a concept. They were just cleared by the state dept. to sell their Mesmer 'drone hacking' product to all nations except 5 with relevant sanctions on them. It is not just a concept, it is a product presently for sale - and it costs significantly less than Patriot, and probably less than a single drone extended out over the full operational life of Mesmer.
    Kibaruk likes this.

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