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A Plague of Locusts? A Preliminary Assessment of the Threat of Multi-Drone Terrorism


Authors: Zacary Kallenborn, Gary Ackerman and Philipp C. Bleek

Date of Publication: 2022

Journal/Publisher: Terrorism and Political Violence

Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Purpose of Study

Key Questions Addressed

Exploring terrorist utilisation of multiple drones in future attacks.

Design of Study

This is a theoretical exploration and threat assessment. It considers a range of terrorist innovations prior to developing a preliminary systematic threat assessment examining the threat as a function of motivations and capabilities.


Terrorist use of drones.

Key Findings

The advantages of multi-drone use by terrorist groups are multiple. They include mass casualty potential, lower operational risk, precision, lack of countermeasures and publicity. However, alongside this are significant disadvantages. They require significant capabilities on the part of the terrorists, it is a steep learning curve, there is the risk of failure. The authors propose that Jihadist and other Middle Eastern militants are the most likely to use drones, ISIS, Hizb'allah, Hamas and the Houthis have all utilised individual drones, and therefore are the most likely to use multi-drone approaches in the future. Non-state militant actors may acquire multi-drone capabilities via native development, state sponsorship, cyber attacks, or theft.

Key Recommendations

  • Global law enforcement and intelligence agencies should expore and identify indicators are multi-drone related risks. 
  • States should identify and protect high-risk targets, including airportsm critical infrastructure facilities, and heads of state.
  • States should invest in counter-measure research and development.
  • States should build proactive norms to discourage prliferation and use the the extent possible.
  • Commerical producers of drone systems should conduct appropriate due diligence on purchasers of large quantities of drones or control system software.

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