What are Kamikaze Drones?

MARSS’ Senior VP of Sales, Rob Balloch, shares his expertise on the latest security threat - kamikaze drones - and explains how MARSS is leading the field with the latest technology for disabling them. 

What are kamikaze drones?

Kamikaze drones - also known as loitering munitions or suicide drones - are similar to precision missiles and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs), but with some distinct differences. Unlike missiles, a kamikaze drone is capable of occupying an airspace - known as loitering - for a relatively long period of time before engaging a target.

These systems may also feature a built-in warhead, or payload, which is intended to detonate during engagement. 


How far can kamikaze drones travel?

In forward operations, kamikaze drones can be flown for many miles behind the front line, waiting passively in the air space before locating, identifying, and engaging a target. They have a unique capability to engage a target that is obscured from view, or which only emerges for a brief period of time.  

How deadly are loitering munitions?

Extremely. Although loitering munitions carry smaller warheads than precision missiles, they are able to evade radar detection thanks to their small size and flight agility. They can also be deployed in “swarm” formations, which rapidly overwhelm air defences and deplete stocks of countermeasures, resulting in a high cost per kill.

Kamikaze drones are more vulnerable to some defensive systems than precision missiles, because they travel at lower speeds. However, in recent theatres, over 30 percent of swarms have eluded traditional air defences.


What do kamikaze drones cost?

Kamikaze drones are designed to be destroyed, so the cost per unit is substantially lower than the cost of a precision missile or an advanced UAS, which is intended to be reused. Typically, they cost around $20,000, compared to an average $1m for a precision missile.

MARSS launches game-changer for the C-UAS market - Interceptor

What can be done to stop kamikaze drones?

Traditional air defence technology - including the Iron Dome in Israel and the British Military’s Sky Sabre and Starstreak systems - is already being used to protect against some kamikaze drones and other UAS threats.

Defensive missiles - whether deployed from fighter jets or fixed locations - are also an effective countermeasure. However, defensive missiles are extremely expensive, costing many times more than the value of the threat, whilst anti-aircraft missiles have a high potential for collateral damage if used in built-up areas. 

How is MARSS helping in stopping kamikaze drones and UASs?

As a global technology company at the cutting edge of defence R&D, MARSS has developed NiDAR - an AI-enabled system designed to detect, verify, alert and respond to UAS threats at a higher rate than conventional defence systems. The platform fuses AI and machine learning software with traditional algorithms for a modular, scalable and unlocked system which can integrate with any legacy sensor and equipment at any location.

Having been at the forefront of AI for use in safety, security and defence applications, MARSS’ world-class NiDAR system pushes sensor capabilities for optimum performance and detection. 

MARSS has also been working with academic and industry partners to develop an AI-enabled autonomous drone Interceptor, which can permanently disable CAT I and CAT II UASs or kamikaze drones without the use of warheads - minimising collateral damage - and tackle swarm threats, at a much lower cost-per-defeat than a single-use kinetic countermeasure.

If you wish to speak to MARSS about our expertise in loitering munitions, UAV threats and the technology that is being developed to counter these, contact