Army orders armed, man-portable drone

Sept. 2, 2011 at 11:51 AM
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MONROVIA, Calif., Sept. 2 (UPI) -- An armed, unmanned aerial vehicle that can be carried in a backpack has been ordered by the U.S. Army from AeroVironment Inc.

The Switchblade air vehicle launches from a small tube and transmits live color video wirelessly for display on AeroVironment's standard small unmanned aircraft system ground control unit. 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.

Flying quietly at high speed, the 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, the company said.

"The unique capabilities provided by the Switchblade agile munition for standoff engagement, accuracy and controlled effects make it an ideal weapon for today's fight and for U.S. military forces of the future," said Bill Nichols, deputy product director at the Army's Close Combat Weapons Systems project office.

The CCW Program Executive Office Missiles and Space originated the contract, which is worth more than $4.9 million.

The contract includes engineering services and operational systems for deployment.

AeroVironment said that instead of requiring support from weapon systems controlled by other operating units, operators will be able to use the ground-launched Switchblade variant to respond to enemy combatants with precision fire from a significant standoff distance when and where required.

"Our dedicated team developed this breakthrough solution with a focus on satisfying important customer needs," said Tom Herring, AeroVironment senior vice president and general manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. "Just as our small unmanned aircraft systems provide game-changing reconnaissance capabilities to ground forces, Switchblade provides a revolutionary rapid strike capability to protect our troops and give them a valuable new advantage on the battlefield."

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