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Drones are widely used in many different sectors

Luther Jackson’s Model UN programs has been discussing the topic of the Israeli-Hamas war for the past 3 weeks. Here, I will explain a specific aspect of the wars in Gaza and Ukraine: technology, and primarily the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, for reconnaissance, surveillance, and striking purposes. Additionally, I will also explain the many uses of drones in more peaceful sectors, such as law enforcement, environmental protection, domestic services, and more.

Military Uses:

According to some sources, the U.S. has been flying at least 6 MQ-9 Reaper drones above the Gaza strip. The U.S. Defense Department stated the drones are being used to aid hostage recovery efforts. The MQ-9 was designed as the first hunter-killer drone capable of high-altitude flight and long range endurance. It is capable of flying to 50,000 feet, a range of 1,000 miles, and fly between 23 to 30 hours at a time. It carries a thermographic camera which is claimed to be able to read a license plate from 2 miles away, While the MQ-9 can carry armament, such as 500 lb bombs and Hellfire missiles, the MQ-9’s flying above Gaza are unarmed and serve a solely surveillance purpose. The USAF operates over 300 Reapers, and the Reapers are also operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the UK’s Royal Air Force, and the Italian Air Force.

MQ-9 Reaper over Afghanistan
By: Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt

Israel has used technologically sophisticated drones for many years, but only recently admitted that the drones are armed with missiles. Israel makes use of the Heron TP, Hermes 900, and smaller Hermes 450, among others. They have been used in airstrikes before, and in the current war, for surveillance and attack. Many other countries have bought drones from Israel. Israel also plans to use smaller drones to penetrate the tunnel network below Gaza. Since radio waves cannot go through the soil, the drones may use AI-powered SLAM (Simultaneous Location And Mapping) technology that will not require a human operator to steer the drone. Israel plans to use a combination of small flying drones and ground robots to explore tunnels or confined buildings. Surveillance drones will also be used in an attempt to detect tunnels from the air.

IAI Eitan (Heron TP)
By: Zachi Evenor

Hamas can use small drones equipped with explosives to knock out Israeli tanks or other hardware, as well as attempting to overwhelm Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system with large amounts of drones coupled with rocket fire.

Ukraine employs large amounts of small drones in its war with Russia. According to some sources, Ukraine is losing 10,000 drones per month, which gives an idea of how many drones are being employed. The Ukraine-Russia war is the first war with drones deployed in such massive numbers. The drones are used for reconnaissance and attack, where FPV drones can be loaded with explosives and flown into tanks or other targets. Drones can also document destruction of enemy targets for propaganda purposes. While drones are easier to shoot down, they can be sent in large swarms to overwhelm the opponent’s air defenses, and with a large amount of anti-drone systems needed to cover a wide area, it is hard to spend less money destroying drones than the drone itself is worth. There are many other ways to counter drones, the potential market for anti-drone technology is huge.

Russia uses some unmanned aerial vehicles in ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) missions in Ukraine, mainly backed up by precision strikes. However, according to some sources, Russia’s detection-to-kill response time is slow, highlighting the lack of high-quality UAV’s in Russia’s arsenal. Based on Russian announcements before the war, Russia seems to be investing into the UAV sector, but newer drones are unlikely to appear on the battlefield anytime soon. Russia makes use of many Iranian-produced drones in Ukraine, such as the Shahed suicide attack drone, which is used against Ukraine’s cities and civillian infrastructure.

The war in Ukraine has greatly increased the use of small, cheap, commercial drones as loitering munitions – single use suicide drones – that cost little but can inflict a lot of damage to targets and are expensive to counter.

Many of these systems can be easily carried and launched, like the highly effective anti-armor Javelin system currently in use in Ukraine, which provides an alternative to close air support tactics which require some time to arrive and need a large airfield to launch.

The U.S. has sent Switchblade loitering munitions systems to Ukraine. The Switchblade 300 system has a shotgun-like warhead which shoots pellets in the direction of flight, which is effective against personnel or lightly armored targets but ineffective against heavy armor such as tanks. The newer Switchblade 600 carries a more powerful warhead that is designed to take out tanks. However, the believed cost for one unit is between $50,000 – $60,000, and Ukraine prefers cheaper commercial drones with cheap explosives that can also take out tanks and cost $700 or less.

Two Switchblades being launched.
By: U.S. Army AMRDEC Public Affairs

The main cause of the loss of many drones is electronic jamming, which is responsible for most of Ukraine’s drone losses, as Russia is more advanced in electronic warfare than Ukraine. There are also many projectile-based anti-drone systems, though many of them have a short range and limited fire rate, making it difficult to defend against large swarms of drones. Additionally, they are only as good as their detection and tracking systems, and as drones become stealthier, it becomes harder to destroy them.

Civilian Uses

Drones can be used for more peaceful purposes, such as land surveying, scientific research, search and rescue, recreation, law enforcement, item delivery, etc. For example, the NYPD is beginning to use drones to patrol the streets, assist in rescue missions, and investigate traffic accidents. The surveillance capability of these drones raise privacy rights concerns, however.
Additionally, drones can be used to survey land from above, such as flying above the Grand Canyon, and can take breathtaking pictures from places humans could never go. Drones or unmanned robots can be used in search and rescue missions in dangerous environments or small spaces, such as collapsed buildings or tunnels, where humans would not be risked. Some companies have created delivery drones to deliver products just like delivery companies like UPS or FedEx.

A Zipline delivery drone designed for delivering medical supplies and blood.
By Roksenhorn – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Another example is the use of sea drones (unmanned boats) to investigate and do research on hurricanes. The company Saildrone Inc. partnered with NOAA to send ocean drones into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2022 hurricane season in an attempt to better improve hurricane forecasting. Other sea drones will operate in the western Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean for hurricane-hunting purposes. They have a “hurricane wing” which resembles a hard sail. The saildrones are built to measure the interactions between the ocean and atmosphere which is very important to hurricane forecasting since energy flows from the warm ocean to the hurricane at the surface. Other drones have been used to sail several hundred feet below the ocean surface to measure effects there.

Recreational Uses

FPV drones for recreational uses such as racing have become increasingly popular. Many of them are quadcopters, and can be easily held in one hand. They can cost one hundred or several hundred dollars, and people can also make them themselves by buying parts or kits. Students in Engineering 2, 3, and 4 at Luther Jackson MS can make these drones themselves by figuring out which parts to buy, constructing the drone, soldering the circuits, and connecting the controller to the drone.

Lightweight FPV Drone
By SokilFPV – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


Overall, drones are used in many different sectors, in both the military and civilian uses. The main idea behind drones is to do things in environments or places where it would be dangerous or impossible for humans to go.


Sources: analysts/#:~:text=Israel%20has%20used%20sophisticated%20drones,smaller%20fixed%2Dwing%20Herman%20450.,battery%2C%20and%20precision%20strikes%20missions.,in%20the%20Gulf%20of%20Mexico.

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