The idea of small, man portable, soldier-launched aerial drones has been catching on for some time now with military operations commanders, as they bring the unique situational awareness and reconnaissance capabilities of larger drone aircraft down to the platoon--or even the individual--level. Now, the U.S. Army is taking the idea to the next level, ordering its first batch of weaponized drones capable of launching from small, portable tube and suicide bombing a target from above.
The drone aircraft are made by Aerovironment, the same California company that makes the Nano Hummingbird surveillance drone (the one regular readers know as a PopSci favorite). Their "Switchblade" drone packs neatly into its launch tube, which then packs easily into a backpack. When it's time to deploy, soldiers quickly set up the launch tube and send Switchblade skyward, where its wings deploy and its quiet electric engine fires up.
From there a pilot can operate the Switchblade remotely, using a video feed from the drone to pilot it and make observations of a potential target. If the target is confirmed, the pilot can arm the on-board munition and fly the drone straight into the target. The drone can fly piloted or autonomously (though naturally it has to receive human commands before arming and attacking). It can even power down its motor and glide in for the kill, offering mission operators a stealthy means of approach.
While a weaponized robotic aerial kill vehicle sounds cool enough on its own, what Switchblade really offers is a capability--it can loiter overhead and observe a situation on the ground, confirm that a target is indeed a legitimate target and not a civilian or some other non-threat, and then deliver a strike without the soldier who deployed the aircraft ever having to stick his head out. Such a capability trumps calling in airstrikes or artillery fire for small targets, and perhaps best of all it's a capability available at soldier level.
Update: We've located some super-sweet promotional footage of the Switchblade bailing some coalition soldiers out of a tight spot. Enjoy.
I wonder when this madness will ever end. The USA is a giant kill machine. Disposing of all humans.
I'm happy that the drone itself is not determining the legitimacy of a target.
I believe our military deserves to have the best equipment. As state of the art as possible.
Most of our current engagements are comparable to civil wars. We need equipment of surgical precision to separate civilians from militants.
The more we eliminate collateral damage the more the local civilians will support your efforts to bring progress and to root out those who dominate and suppress their freedom.
war is one another economy-money-maker and another technology-bringer...
so as Midoman sayd, we just need more presision thats all ^^
bored? lets go mine the stars... ^^
@boka, war sucks agreed, but stoping terrorists I think is better than some wars we have gotten into. This also shows that the US is more humane than most other countries, where we will spends thousands of dollars in technology to prevent civilian deaths, while we could easily drop 100's of small dumb bombs and wipe out an entire city, you say mass killers I say precision peace keepers
@boka...stick to the facts please and stop spewing hatred of the US from pure ignorance, one genicide in africa killed approximately 500,000 in 100 days, so get real...back to the article, "The drone can fly piloted or autonomously (though naturally it has to receive human commands before arming and attacking)", right, until it gets smart
Stop complaining and be glad you're not on the receiving end.
If the United States Governement WASN'T protecting you, you'd be complaining about that as well. So just drop it.
this sounds expensive.
why learn from your own mistakes, when you could learn from the mistakes of others?
This is kind of a scary thought, but very interesting to, I can't help but wish I had one for a toy. I knew it was only so long before kamikaze drones came about..kind of like the remote controlled rockets from MGS 1 on ps1. Glad to hear it is human controller as well, although at some point software could make for less civilian casualties as software improves. Less civilian casualties is always a good thing, but until they have facial recognition on board, they will be up against soldiers dressed in civilian clothing. And they will always be tainted by corrupted soldiers/hackers/theft/etc to be used against us or for the greater good.
I find interesting when people say warfare helps with advancing science and technology like there isn't a better way. While it does in some regards, imagine how much faster progress would be if we worked together in an open source fashion, instead of individual countries/coorporations hoarding those secrets against eachother, and we all worked together. Imagine that...
@dr.chuck there have been well over 500,000 civilian casualties as a result of the us lead invasion of Iraq. You can't compare nature and mans warfare, two very different beasts and one is much more under our control...for now..hehehe
@vt007 The winning side gets the advances yes, but the losing side loses much more. Imagine how much the romans destroyed, the christians, the vikings, the mongels, etc etc. How much did that set us back collectively? Every time a new empire rolls in they set the people they are rolling over quite a bit and those people lose touch with their land and ways of life that have helped them progress so well in that region.
We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are. ~Anais Nin~
I suspect that this kind of device flies at extremely low speed and could be easily shot down by an alert enemy. I also suspect that it has extremely limited fuel and range, not to mention a tiny ordinance payload. Plus, with all of these, if you start jamming a wide range of signals you make it impossible to operate these remotely piloted vehicles.
First of all, Boka is trolling.
Second of all, several commenters have made statements implying that it's for some great humanitarian reason that the US military is trying to reduce civilian casualties by employing devices like this. But it's not the casualties they are trying to avoid, it's the backlash of the native population and the rest of the world for said casualties that they are trying to avoid.
Third of all, this thing brings to mind a flying IED, without the I part of course. Also, it probably costs about 8,000 times more than an IED.
I am sure boka is in Al Qaeda and is quietly wanting to surrender. Troll meet troll. SHADDUP BOKA!
I hate trolls.
Slowly I turned...step by step...inch by inch...
@1134...try using a dictionary before you post, genocide is people killing people, nothing to do with nature, in Rwandan app. 500,00 were killed in 100 days, we have been in irag for app. 8 years, nice going comparing apples to oranges, i forgot Boka was a troll or i wouldn't have responded to her
@dr chuck I did misread your post, I usually post in the few minutes free I have at work so I don't always have the time I should to read fully, I could have sworn you wrote drought or something like that, I am fully aware of what genocide is and just misread. Still though, no matter how 500,000 innocents die, or how long it takes, it still should be avoided at all costs.
If they're as available as they say they are, why doesn't every border patrol agent have one? That would be the most practical use, of course we wouldn't be blowing up Mexican refugees but we could deter the cartels from spilling their violence on our side if need be.
Sounds like a waste to me, i couldnt see this being practical for dismounted infantry in that they would have to carry all the batteries (which you are then limited in your usage time) for the head set and the equipment which, even spread among a section or platoon would be alot of weight on top of all of their water, rations, ammo and mission essential kit.
It seems to me that it would only be feasible for a mounted patrol or unit. In which case optics on crewserve weapons nowdays are usually good enough that you can itentify a threat at long distances.
Plus with a one time firing capability or what it seems to be, there isnt much margin for user error. give me a good old mortar and spotter over this anyday.
I've seen american mounted mortar teams operate out of their lavs in combat, and they have enough precision equipment that would probably cost less and they do their job quite nicely...
Seems like a cool toy and its a neat idea though.
This article headline is way off. 1st of all, an entity has to be alive to die. Second, even if the drones were self aware, they are not making the decision to launch, therefore they are not committing suicide. It’s more like murder.
Also the U.S likes to invade third world countries…what a pathetic bully. The real terrorists are the bureaucrats in Washington. They kill millions yearly, mostly women and children from behind desks.
U.S military are a bunch of cowards. Like in WWI & WWII and even Vietnam, they were brave heroes…but now they are just serial killers and child rapists, heatless and soulless.
If they were to face an enemy that was advanced and as rich as them, they would lose.
@ALH now your just being a troll, can we keep these topics as respectful as possible maybe. Don't blame military, but if you must place blame lay it at the feet of politicians.
@1134...ok, of course it would be better to have no deaths, my point was that there are more deaths around the world than caused by just the US, cheers-@ducimus...the point is to reduce colateral damage (civilians), motors are great but have alot of colateral damage, cheers
1134, It's closer to 100k - and that's including casualties caused by insurgents and criminals.
It's just a remote controlled bomb. "Kamikaze Suicide Drone" is not only a technically inaccurate term for this particular device, which should be your most paramount concern, but it is also needlessly provocative.
Ianredneck, What do you mean by "be respectful". REspectful of this?
war is more than cools toys like "kamikaze attack drones"....wake up you sheep and stop trolling me.
@lanredneck.... forget it ALH has a perception narrower than a nano fiber. You have better luck getting through to a brick wall. Had he any common sense he would realize that this tech was designed to get the bad guy without killing innocent people. He calls the US Military cowards but the US military aren't hiding in civilian populations behind women and children plotting to blow up sky scrapers.
@dr chuck, I disagree with you, when your thinking mortars all your thinking is H.E. they utilize ilumination rounds which are effective determinant at night. Smoke, which provides concealment allowing coalition forces to get closer without taking as much fire, and white phosphorus for marking targets, along with any other rounds the yanks use that I dont know about. Also, I dont think that I've seen or been on an op that didnt have air support being used as an enabler. I'm not sure the statistics on them but im pretty sure that any aircraft the americans use, whould have better optics than this throw away drone. As for collateral, there is always human error in either laying a weapon or operating a drone and both methods use an explosive charge. I've seen the equipment that the american mortar teams use and it all uses gps to lay on a target were not talking about pointing it into the wind and hoping for the best. All that these new drones are designed to do is get people like you excited about less civilian casualties when they'll probably be locked up in some sea can unused until a reporter comes around... its a waste of money especially with the american government needing to cut budgets
sorry i meant deterrent for the illumination rounds
@ Boka, Im sure we'd all rather have a robot die than a human. you probably are in Al Qaeda...
@Undogmatic….Excuse me? What about the drone that bombed a wedding full of women and children to get 1 person? This tech will be aimed at schools, hospitals, and other civilian all targets . How the hell is some one in a cave going to surpass the trillion$$ U.S military industrial complex? They are in Iraq for the oil, if you don’t know this by now you are dunce..put on your dunce cap. Iraqi’s had nothing to do with 9/11 even if you believe the official lie. They found no WMD’s and Sadam hated Al-Qaida they were not allowed in the country when he was there. You do realize Al-Qaida rebels are the ones who over through the Libyan government. I bet you don’t. Al-Qaeda was a C.I.A invention from the cold war..and they are C.I.A operatives…please educate yourself because it hurts me to converse with ignorance from a punk kid like yourself.
Also from your logic it sounds like those women and children deserve to be killed. Listen they are going into a major city that has millions of people, they are fighting third world countries with 21st century tech. What do expect the people fighting for their homeland to do?
I await your response, and I promise I will give you another verbal lashing, so mind you p’s and q’s
Quote from Aldron "U.S military are a bunch of cowards. Like in WWI & WWII and even Vietnam, they were brave heroes…but now they are just serial killers and child rapists, heatless and soulless."
What a brave anonymous troll you are.