On today’s battlefields, drones are a manageable threat. When hundreds of them can be harnessed to AI technology, they will become a tool of conquest.

The Shahed-model drone that killed three U.S. service members at a remote base in Jordan on Jan. 28 cost around $20,000. It was part of a family of drones built by Shahed Aviation Industries Research Center, an Iranian company run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. A thousand miles away and three days later, on the night of Jan. 31 into the morning of Feb. 1, unmanned maritime drones deployed by Ukraine’s secretive Unit 13 sunk the $70 million Russian warship Ivanovets in the Black Sea. And for the past several months, Houthi proxies have shut down billions of dollars of trade through the Gulf of Aden through similarly inexpensive drone attacks on maritime shipping. Drones have become suddenly ubiquitous on the battlefield—but we are only at the dawn of this new age in warfare.

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