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'Shock-and-awe': The risks posed by rudimentary weaponized drones

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Rachel Rhodes

Venezuelan President Nicolas Madura survived an apparent assassination attempt carried out by drones on Saturday, Aug. 4 while speaking to a crowd in the capital city of Caracas.

Associate Professor in Cornell University’s Department of Government

Sarah Kreps

Associate Professor in Cornell University’s Department of Government

Sarah Kreps is the author of two books on drone warfare, Drones: What Everyone Needs to Know and Drone Warfare. She says that drones like those Venezuelan authorities say were used to target Maduro are less lethal than other assassination methods, but are accessible and effective at terrorizing both civilians and political leaders.

Kreps says:

“Drone experts have long warned of the possibility that drones could be used for political assassination. All individuals or groups need to pull this off is a rudimentary drone they can buy online and some explosives.

“Skeptics would say that there are more lethal alternatives for targeting a political leader, like semi-automatic guns, because drones bought online have a low payload, meaning that they are generally unable to carry large quantities of explosives.

“But terrorist groups in the Middle East have used low payload drones—some booby-trapped, others armed with grenades—to kill adversaries on the battlefield. They exploit the element of surprise and do not need to kill many people to be disruptive.

“When it comes to civilians and political leaders, the effects of drone use are potentially even more significant: almost an infinite number of ‘soft targets’ and a psychological shock-and-awe that can terrorize the population regardless of how many people are actually killed or wounded.”

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