Company makes "kamikaze drone" that is portable by a soldier.
Errant drone strikes have been blamed for killing and injuring scores of civilians throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan, giving the US government a black eye as it targets elusive terrorist groups. The Predator and Reaper drones deployed in these regions typically carry 100-pound (45-kilogram) laser-guided Hellfire missiles or 500-pound GPS-guided smart bombs that can reduce buildings to smouldering rubble.
The new Switchblade drone, by comparison, weighs less than six pounds (2.7 kilograms) and can take out a sniper on a rooftop without blasting the building to bits. It also enables soldiers in the field to identify and destroy targets much more quickly by eliminating the need to call in a strike from large drones that may be hundreds of kilometres away.
"This is a precision strike weapon that causes as minimal collateral damage as possible," said William I. Nichols, who led the Army's testing effort of the Switchblades at Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama.
The 61-centimetre-long Switchblade is so named because its wings fold into the fuselage for transport and spring out after launch. It is designed to fit into a soldier's rucksack and is fired from a mortar-like tube. Once airborne, it begins sending back live video and GPS coordinates to a hand-held control set clutched by the soldier who launched it.
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