Dezeen Magazine

Drones reportedly used in assassination attempt

Weaponised drone reportedly used in failed assassination attempt

Venezuelan officials have claimed a thwarted assassination attempt was made against President Nicolás Maduro using explosives strapped to drones.

If true, this would be the first reported drone-enabled assassination attempt of a head of state.

Interior Minister Néstor Reverol said on Venezuelan national television that two DJI M600 drones, each loaded with one kilogram of the plastic explosive C-4, were flown towards the president during a military rally in Caracas on Saturday 4 August.

Footage of the event shows Maduro and top military officials reacting with shock to a loud explosion, before men in suits rush to protect the Venezuelan president with shields.

Uniformed soldiers can be seen breaking formation to scatter from the site of the apparent blast before the live broadcast was cut. Seven people have been reported as injured.

"That drone was coming for me but there was a shield of love," Maduro said in a speech hours after the incident.

Manufacturer condemns "harmful misuse" of drones

According to Reverol one weaponised drone was shot down before it reached Maduro, whilst the other lost control and crashed into a nearby apartment building, exploding on impact.

"DJI makes products purely for peaceful purposes," a spokesperson for the Shenzhen-based drone manufacturers said in a statement.

"We deplore any use of our products to bring harm to anyone. While some of the facts remain unclear, we are prepared to assist investigators concerning any harmful misuse of our technology."

On Twitter a group called the Soldados de Franela – the T-shirt Soldiers – appeared to claim responsibility for the attack.

"The operation was to fly over two drones loaded with C-4 to target the presidential box. Snipers of the guard of honour shot down the drones before reaching the target," read the message.

"We showed that they are vulnerable, it was not achieved today but it is only a matter of time. #MilitaryPatriots".

Drones pose potential threat

Drones were invented for military use before being made available commercially. Last year leaked documents revealed that the US Army had been using DJI's Phantom drones before cybersecurity concerns about the Chinese-made technology forced them to ground their fleet of flying robots.

In Dezeen's documentary Elevation, which explored the disruptive potential and pitfalls of drone technology, the designer Clemens Weisshaar warned of "scary" scenarios involving drones.

"It's surprising how little has happened with commercially available drones... Because there is stuff that can carry considerable payloads," he said.

"Just dropping things into a crowd is a real option. And gladly nothing has happened there yet, but it will."

Reports about the nature of the drone assassination attempt in Venezuela are conflicted, however.

The Associated Press interviewed a firefighter on the scene who claimed that the explosion in the apartment building was caused by a gas tank.

Questions raised over drone's origin

Military expert Rocio San Miguel, who runs security watchdog group Control Ciudadano, told the Washington Post that the shot-down drone was a "security mistake".

She claimed that the drone belonged to the military and when it lost control near the presidential stage it was shot down by their snipers as a precaution. The explosion nearby was unconnected, she said.

Six people have been arrested in connection with the alleged assassination attempt.

Main image is a stock photo of a drone from Shutterstock.