It was the early hours of Sept. 14, 2019, when a swarm of small drones left two Saudi oil facilities in ruins. The aftermath was caught on film from several angles and captured a near-Biblical sight — giant pillars of flame and smoke, like a burning sword extended from the Earth and stretched toward the heavens.
Analysis by the Saudi government suggested the unmanned aerial intruders were built with inexpensive parts, some of which anyone could buy at a store. One estimate gave a price tag of $15,000 or less. And so it was, that in a matter of minutes, a handful of cheap drones reduced global oil production by five percent.
The drone attack made its rotation through headlines, but the world soon moved on. For those paying attention to the rapidly evolving capabilities of drone warfare, however, the attack indicated the threat was real and getting worse.