Mon, Oct 24, 2011
Small UAS Promises Better Precision, Less Collateral
Science fiction writers have imagined small, scary robots which
fly after individual characters with ill intent, and they've been
one of the scarier parts of stories as recent as last season's TV
mini-series, "V." Now, they're fiction no more, and the US Army
wants them as quickly as possible.
Aerovironment, Inc. calls its small, tube-launched UAV the
"Switchblade Agile Munition," after the manner in which its wings
unfold as it leaves its launch tube. It's becoming known informally
among YouTube enthusiasts as the "kamikaze drone." At under 2.2 kg
(4.8 lb.), the aircraft, along with its launcher, control system
and video downlink viewer all fit in a backpack. Switchblade can be
set up and launched in seconds.
AeroVironment says it has received a contract from the US Army
worth $4,907,840 for Switchblade, including engineering services
and operational systems for deployment. The prototype received
Safety Confirmation and underwent Military Utility Assessment with
the Army in the fall of last year. The award is for rapid fielding
of this capability to deployed combat forces.
Switchblade transmits live color video. Upon confirming the
target, the operator sends a command to the air vehicle to arm it
and lock its trajectory onto the target. Flying quietly at high
speed using an electric motor, Switchblade delivers its onboard
explosive payload with precision while minimizing collateral
damage. With the ability to call off a strike even after the air
vehicle is armed, Switchblade provides a level of control not
available in other weapon systems.
A report from AFP News notes the larger drones used to target
and kill suspects in locations such as Pakistan have generated
anger among locals when their Hellfire missiles and other large
ordnance have caused extensive damage and killed nearby civilians.
Switchblade promises to be a much more surgical approach.
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