X-8 commercial drones manufactured by China-based Skywalker Technologies are used for military reconnaissance, artillery spotting and even aerial bombing against ISIS as soldiers fighting in Iraq and Syria have discovered, the Financial Times reported.
The first X-8 in a conflict zone was spotted in 2015 by Kurdish forces near the Mosul Dam in Iraq, while in October 2016 a bomb-laden X-8 killed two Kurdish soldiers and injured two French commandos in the same area, according to Sahan Research, a UK-based think-tank.
Bombmaking workshops run by ISIS have weaponised X-8s and other drones such as the Phantom, made by Shenzhen-based DJI, the world’s largest commercial dronemaker. Some hobby drones now boast formidable capabilities, with 7km ranges and payloads up to 40kg.
The founder of one Shenzhen-based armed drone manufacturer said that while military drones are strictly regulated, consumer drones are not — and unmanned aerial vehicles "can be retrofitted with one to two hand grenades very easily".
Chinese dronemakers say there is nothing they can do to prevent their wares from being hijacked. DJI laments the use of its drones in warfare as "deplorable" and an "abuse of the technology".