By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Technology
The switchblade is a drone that fits easily into a backpack and could also explode on impact.
An innovative new weapon may mark the end of days when insurgents can run away, hide from or even go toe-to-toe with ground troops.
The switchblade, developed by military contractor AeroVironment, was born out efforts to take drone technology beyond reconnaissance missions and the massive Reaper or Predator assault aircraft being used in Pakistan and elsewhere. What the researchers came up with was a drone that easily fits into a backpack and could also explode on impact.
The way it works is somewhat similar to mortar artillery in that it's launched from a tube. However, it can hover in the air before homing in on an enemy target. And, should a soldier change his mind, it can be called off at the last minute.
It's been described as "a smart, remote-control grenade with wings" and a "Kamikaze drone." I'd say it's, more than anything else, a miniature guided missile. Whatever you want to call it, the military plans to make sure soldiers are armed with it soon, according to a report by the AFP.
What makes the weapon so deadly is a combination of cutting-edge technologies packed into a missile-shaped capsule that weighs no more than 2 pounds. Inside is a highly-precise guidance and command system and a mechanism that enables explosive material to detonate on impact. A small motor powers the device, enabling it to send real-time video of targets on the ground so soldiers can lock in on the enemy.
"Upon confirming the target using the live video feed, the operator then sends a command to the air vehicle to arm it and lock its trajectory onto the target," the company told AFP.
One of the Switchblade's obvious advantages is that with such unprecedented maneuverability and versatility, soldiers can more effectively take out targets and do so without having to put themselves in positions where they are more vulnerable. And with this kind of precision, it also reduces the likelihood of collateral damage, which has been an ongoing criticism of the unmanned drone missions in which bombs are dropped on sites where civilians may reside.
According to a report in Wired: the Army awarded AeroVironment a $4.9 million contract on July 29 for “rapid fielding” of an unspecified number of Switchblades to “deployed combat forces.”
So before too long, they might start seeing some action in Afghanistan.
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It'd be cooler if it dropped grenades and could continue to do recon as well as fly autonomously, returning back to the sender before the battery died. It could get multiple kills, confirm the kills from the grenades, as well as continue to provide support, and could also just be used to spot problems before they happen, let alone after they're already going on.
If these things are being manufactured and shipped and deployed, it's only a matter of time before terrorists/guerrillas/liberationists (depending on where your sympathies lie) get their hands on one. How would we protect a general, an ambassador, or a President then?
This is another new weapon. It's time to stop producing tools of war! There are too many conflicts worldwide because of greed and corruption in the government and corporate America!
Arguable, yes. Avoidable, not really. Western civilization is based on Judeo Christian beliefs. This implies that "innocents" are not anywhere near the armed conflicts - and are quickly removed when the situation provides. Many of our enemy forces know and exploit this. Children are armed with explosives. Weapons caches are stored in schools, hospitals, etc.. Headquarters are located deep in civilian areas. These enemy civilians are forcibly involved or take a passive role in the conflict and success is then shared. The western mind is going to have to change and accept that our enemies are exploiting our collateral damage reservations. Once this changes, they'll really have to be concerned.
Hand grenades are much less lethal than they're portrayed in movies & on TV. And it's harder to drop something directly onto something from above than it sounds, too. A UAV with that capability will be much heavier & much more expensive than Switchblade.
Don't believe that "1984" has much about war in the future (of 1954) in general or the use of robots in war in particular. On the other hand, Oceania (which included the USA) was in a state of perpetual war. Depending on how you define war, that's the USA since 2001. Even before that, the USA literally had troops (mostly in very small numbers) in over a 100 countries around the world.
The problem is that in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the governments get angry over collateral killings and put pressure on the troops while guerilla fighters use civilians as sheilds or as acceptable casualties to blame on the troops. This new device would help a little bit to reduce civilian casualties. The video was interesting but did not show how this would work in the scenario where the combatants are mixed with civilians. It also did not show how the missle could be recalled.