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The Islamic State's Drone Innovation

Archambault, Emil; Veilleux-Lepage, Yannick


Yannick Veilleux-Lepage


James Patton Rogers


This chapter provides a survey of IS’ drone program, how it came to embody this most salient menace, and how IS innovated in its use of drones. To this end, we outline how IS built structures to centralise drone development and modification, as well as how they used them for attacks, to film and direct other operations, and for reconnaissance. Finally, we argue that IS’s innovation lay mainly in its use of drones for propaganda, rather than in the oft-cited threats of terrorist attacks or weapons of mass destruction deployment. The first part of this chapter presents how IS built a highly centralised drone program with established structures for training, acquisition and modification. The second section analyses IS’ different use of drones and how the group used drones for offensive operations and to command and control other types of attacks, notably artillery and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. The third section argues that IS employed drone imagery in propaganda to further its claim to effective sovereignty and control of its territory. The final two sections analyse the importance of the IS drone program for wider studies, notably of the threat of dissemination of knowledge about non-state drone use. Ultimately, we argue, the IS drone program represents one of many pathways of non-state drone development.


Archambault, E., & Veilleux-Lepage, Y. (in press). The Islamic State's Drone Innovation. In J. P. Rogers (Ed.), De Gruyter Handbook of Drone Warfare. Berlin: De Gruyter

Acceptance Date Aug 4, 2023
Deposit Date Jan 26, 2024
Publisher De Gruyter
Series Title De Gruyter Contemporary Social Sciences Handbooks
Book Title De Gruyter Handbook of Drone Warfare
ISBN 9783110741926
Keywords armed drones; non-state actors; terrorist groups; Islamic State; Visual Propaganda; terrorist innovation; sovereignty
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