The U.S. Army has ordered its first batch of small suicide drones that are capable of launching from a small tube, loitering in the sky and then diving at a target upon command.
The backpack-size “Switchblade” drone and its launch tube give individual soldiers a new level of precise control over an explosive weapon. Rather than calling in supporting artillery fire or airstrikes, soldiers can simply launch the Switchblade from out of sight, confirm a target on a live video feed from the drone, and then command the robotic device to arm itself and fly into the target at high speed.
The drone, created by AeroVironment, is able to fly in both autonomous robot mode or as a remotely piloted air vehicle. Either way, its small size and quiet electric motor allow it to approach targets without warning. It can even switch off its motor and glide in for a stealthy attack.
AeroVironment received a $4.9 million contract from the Army’s Close Combat Weapons Systems on June 29. The company publicly announced the deal on Sept. 1.
Update here: AFP (19th October, 2011).