The conflicts in Iraq and Syria have seen the rise of a new form of unmanned warfare, the large-scale use of weaponized consumer drones. Islamic State group militants have also built a significant micro-UAV capability, and continue to grow that by leveraging commercial technology.
This is not the first use of drones by nonstate actors. Hezbollah has been flying UAVs since 2004, some carrying explosives. However, while Hezbollah claims its Mirsad drones are built locally, they appear to be modified or export versions of the Iranian Mohajer surveillance drone. The Mirsad has a piston engine, a 10-ft. wingspan and has been an easy target for air defense systems.
In contrast, the Islamic State drone effort has been fed by cheap, capable consumer drones, available since the release of the DJI Phantom in 2013. This quadcopter flew around 20 mph for 20 min., sending back high-resolution video from a mile away, for less than $2,000.
I shared this old photo with Steve Belknap showing a transmitter I scratch built in 1968 when I was in 9th grade and he asked if I would write up something about it.
I built the 3 channel transmitter from a schematic in MAN (Model Airplane News). I bought the electrical components from Shanks & Wright, Milo and Western Radio (they were located on Kettner Blvd and India St. and are all gone now). I measured the lead spacing and drew a PC board trace pattern on quad paper. I etched the PCB with ferric chloride after covering the copper with electrical tape and cutting it with a #11 and straight edge, then drilled the holes after etching.