Now this is how I wanted to come back to work: with a story about how an obscure Canadian defense firm and a similarly obscure Canadian private-security group smuggled a mini-UAV into western Libya for rebel use.
[A] Canadian military vet, Charles Barlow, brought it personally into Misurata. Armed with a Canadian export license and the backpack-sized Scout, Barlow boarded a retrofitted tuna boat at Malta used to send humanitarian aid to Misurata despite NATO’s maritime blockade in late July. As far as Barlow is aware, Canada licensed the drone for sale to the Libyan rebels, but NATO didn’t know that the carried it into port, even after multiple hailings by NATO vessels.
Barlow, who runs a Canadian private security firm called the Zariba Security Corporation, told Danger Room that he spent only about 24 hours teaching Misurata’s rebels how to use the Scout. On the bombed-out airfield near the port, Barlow launched about ten test flights while Gadhafi’s artillery crashed down only a few miles away.
There was also little doubt about where the Libyan rebels wanted to use it. “The only imagery they wanted loaded on was Misurata to Tripoli, on that coastal road,” Barlow said. “I can’t hand-on-heart tell you it’s in Tripoli, but this was the main front out of Misurata.”
Worry not, the thing ways all of three pounds and it isn't armed. But it's the latest example of weapons tech that used to be exclusively in the hands of national militaries filtering down to non-state actors. The company that makes the drone, Aeryon*, wouldn't tell me how much the rebels paid, but did tell me the drone typically sells for about $100,000. Not cheap, but hardly expensive for an insurgent force. (Export controls pending.)
* And yes, I love the fact that this company sounds like it could be a Targaryen.