So ISIS is using homemade drones. Here’s how they work.

Popular Science looks at the the backyard engineering that goes into an effective homemade military drone:

To better understand ISIS drones, I spoke with an investigator at Conflict Armament research, who requested anonymity given the sensitive nature of the work. When the investigator entered the workshop, there were no completed drones inside. Instead, they saw plywood fuselages and styrofoam wings, as well as a missile from a man-portable anti-air defense system, or MANPADS.

The ISIS drones all appeared to be scratch-built, said the investigator, “it was not like the off the shelf, like the Phantom or things you can buy.” Mass-produced quadcopters, like the DJI Phantom series, have many advantages; they can come with cameras and batteries, they’re known to work, and they’re designed to be simple to fly, but there are still major limitations in the designs. Most can only fly for a maximum of around 20 minutes on a full charge, and that flight time is reduced the more weight the drone is carrying.

So ISIS, instead, built its own drones. Notably, the investigators found a gyroscope made by Turkish company Bomec Robot Teknolojileri for the Turkish domestic market in the workshop, suggesting that ISIS was trying to build a navigation tool for its scratch-made flying machines.

For as much as Conflict Armament Research found in the workshop, there’s still a lot left to discover about ISIS drones. The workshop “looks like they abandoned it while they were working,” says the investigator….

More at Conflict Armament’s drone report (pdf).

Also, there’s a photo of an Iraqi sheet-plastic-and-duct-tape flying machine at the link.