ISIS UAVs: A Case Study in Obtaining Meaningful Intelligence from Telegram

A wide spectrum of communities can be found on Telegram, a secure messaging application operating in the deep web. Over the past few years, Telegram has emerged as the jihadists’ preferred application for communications.

In the past few months, ISIS supporters on Telegram channels and groups have extensively used the application to demonstrate what they view as a military success in weaponizing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). In the period from February – May 2017, there were numerous posts on several channels showing video clips of successful UAV attacks, information on how to make homemade UAVs and other kinds of aircrafts, and plenty of “military commentary” from ISIS supporters on how to make these UAV weapons even more lethal.

Below are several examples of the kinds of posts we’ve been seeing these past few months.

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“Military commentary” on a pro-ISIS Telegram channel on future developments of ISIS UAVs


Post Translation:

It seems that the development of mortars used in the UAVs was rapid and it seems there is a competition between [ISIS] provinces, where different models/types of UAVs are being used and where there have been successful improvements [to the mortars]. Based on this rapid development, we can expect to see other developments in the near future, among them:

–          Increasing the size and weight of the mortar

–          Increasing the capacity of the UAV, carrying more mortars

–          Equipping the mortar with a small engine or with rocket fuel to increase its speed and penetration ability

–          Equipping the mortar with toxic gases and toxic shrapnel able to kill everyone it hits

–          Transferring the technology to distant ISIS provinces

–          Experimenting with manufacturing smaller and larger UAVs using different engines for various uses such as attack, observation, media, and personal use


A pro-ISIS Telegram channel shared video tutorials on YouTube explaining how to build a small jet engine and how to install it on a small UAV so it will be able to carry a warhead and be fast enough to chase a larger aircraft



A pro-ISIS Telegram channel shared tutorials for learning “Raspberry Pi” – a small, low-cost, single-board computer which runs on open-source software. He urged his subscribers to learn how to work with it in order to “develop new technological jihadi projects, such as building automatic mujahid [fighter] robot, or an UAV carrying Dushka [a heavy machine gun]… and operating them from distance…”

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