The 2020 YouTube bombings in Armenia exposed this new form of warfare to the world. There, in the blue video, the radar dish spins under the blue intersection until it erupts into a cloud of smoke. The action is repeated twice: the sight is aimed at the vehicle, the turntable sensor is installed, its earth barriers fail to protect it from air attack, leaving an empty crater.

The clip, posted on YouTube on September 27, 2020, was one of many released by the Azerbaijani military during the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, which they launched the same day against neighboring Armenia. The video was recorded by TB2.

It covers all the horrors of war with the added voyeurism of an unblinking camera.

In this and other conflicts, the TB2 filled a void in the arms market created by the US government’s refusal to export the high-end Predator drone family. To circumvent restrictions on the export of drone models and other important military technology, Baykar turned to technologies available on the commercial market to create new combat weapons.

The TB2 is built in Turkey with a mix of domestically produced parts and parts sourced from international commercial markets. An investigation into the downed Bayraktars found components obtained by US companies, including a Trimble GPS receiver, a Viasat on-board modem/transceiver and a Garmin GNC 255 navigation radio. Garmin, which makes consumer GPS products, released a statement saying its navigation device , found in TB2s, “is not designed or intended for military use, or even designed or intended for use in drones.” But it is there.

Commercial technology makes the TB2 attractive for another reason: while the US-made Reaper drone costs $28 million, the TB2 costs only about $5 million. Since its development in 2014, TB2 has been seen in conflicts in Azerbaijan, Libya, Ethiopia, and now Ukraine. The drone is so much more affordable than traditional weapons that Lithuanians have launched crowdfunding campaigns to help procure it for Ukrainian forces.

The TB2 is just one of several examples of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles used in combat. The same DJI Mavic quadcopters that help real estate agents inspect properties have been used in conflicts in Burkina Faso and Donbass, Ukraine. Other DJI drone models have been seen in Syria since 2013, and drones assembled from commercially available parts have seen widespread use.

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