At the end of the world, anyone who isn’t crazy is going to want a friendly eye in the sky. Helicopters are out of the question, but an off-the-shelf consumer grade drone, or small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) can be a large force multiplier for friendly forces. The advantages that they can give defenders could make the difference in a defensive situation or even an evacuation.
Drones can provide real time intelligence from “impossible” perspectives that someone with a pair of binoculars in a tall building or on a hill can’t see. The area that one can actively surveille expands with the drone’s height and mobility advantage. They allow loitering and tracking of mobile targets. Ground units can be supplemented or supported by aerial observation.
Some of the advantages drones can provide to neighborhood defenders are:
One could remotely clear intersections, curves in the road, behind hills or obstacles, for ambushes. Imagine that instead of having to send a team on foot to check out some wrecked cars in the road, your drone can simply do a fly-by to see if guys with guns are crouching on the other side.
Drones are stealthy. They may not be heard or seen by people on the ground, often going totally unnoticed at high flight altitudes. Their stealth is an inherent capability due to their size. They may be operated at altitudes where the rotor noise is not heard or it easily blends in with the ambient noise. The airframes themselves are also relatively small and can be visually overlooked if flying at a high enough altitude or the model is quite small. Visual detection range is typically 100 yards and the sound can be detected at 40 yards.
Drones also don’t replace tried and true methods. Just because you have a magic flying thingy doesn’t relieve you from walking your perimeter, sending out patrols, or performing inspections in person. Technology is not a substitute for using your God-given senses to further investigate suspicious circumstances. Drones can’t see everything and will change the behavior of those that they observe in ways actual humans may not.
Drones aren’t just for observation. They can be used as a suppression tool. If an enemy knows he is being observed, it is likely to change his behavior. An attacker who is hoping to strike unannounced that is seen by a drone (and knows it), may abandon his entire attack. If not, the plan may be disrupted because the potential “victim” is able to tailor their defense in real time to the movement of the enemy.
In on the ground human terms, imagine that a gang of thieves are getting ready to rob a jewelry store. Except next to that jewelry store is a deli and four police officers are eating lunch outside on the terrace. The robbers have to wait until the officers are gone before they can move in. Except the cops know what’s up and as soon as they are done eating, their observation duties are taken over by a patrol car. Done deliberately, this is a form of suppression. Cops do it all the time by simply patrolling and remaining in locations vulnerable to crime because crooks who aren’t totally stupid won’t do things in front of the police.
Drone Operation TradecraftPaint your drone in a neutral gray color as many military aircraft are painted.
Treat launching your drone like a submarine raising its periscope. Periscopes pop up for just a brief span of time and are pulled back down as soon as possible. See what you need to see and land; constant observation isn’t always going to be necessary.
Don’t be predictable.
Note: this an adaptation from my non-fiction book Suburban Warfare: A cop’s guide to surviving a civil war, SHTF, or modern urban combat, available on Amazon.
Author Don Shift
Don Shift is a veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office and avid fan of post-apocalyptic literature and film who has pushed a black and white for a mile or two. He is a student of disasters, history, and current events.