The price for these things has yet to be determined. I was also interested to hear that these are ‘one time use’ SUAV’s. Which leads one to think did they purposely make them one time use so that the military would have to buy more of them, or is it just technically impossible to re-use the device if it has been flown?
As for further thoughts about the Switchblade, I personally think that this system should be launched out of pre-existing launchers in the US inventory. Something like the SMAW or the M-3 MAAWS would be excellent launchers to sling SUAV’s out of. I also know that a few companies have experimented with launching SUAV’s out of artillery or from rocket pods on helicopters. To me, it just makes sense to use anti-tank/bunker buster teams as drone archers of a company/unit and utilize the tools they are already familiar with and carrying.
If there was a Switchblade that could be launched out of a M 3 MAAWS, then AeroVironment could take advantage of a global market that uses those weapon systems. Or even develop a SUAV that could be launched from a RPG launcher? The market for both of those launchers would be massive, just because they are used all over the world.
The other thing that must be looked at is control and situational awareness. I am particularly interested in the RQ 14 Dragon Eye system, because it uses a video goggle. That is a great path to go for control and there has been some movement towards this, and especially in the civilian world. Vuzix is one company that makes a monocular that could help the soldier on the ground maintain situational awareness, and yet still fly the drone. Or you could have the gunner wear this, and the targeting specialist wear 3D or panoramic goggles. You need one guy to be on the lookout as the other guy’s attention is on flying the drone. And of course the computer used in all of this would be a smart phone or similar sized device.
What I really like about this set up is that if a team runs out of drones, they could switch back to standard munitions for their weapon system. They could put away their goggle and smart phone, and go back to being anti-tank or anti-material bunker busters if need be. Just some thoughts on the matter, and just a recap on what I have talked about in the past. -Matt
Listen to it here.
‘Backpack-able drones’ could soon be deployed to troops on ground
By Jack Moore
Drones — officially known as unmanned aerial systems — have patrolled the U.S.-Mexico border and targeted terrorist leaders halfway across the world. Someday fighters and bombers will likely even be unmanned.
And now one company has learned how to downsize the latest weapon of war to a size small enough to fit in a soldier’s backpack.
Steven Gitlin, vice president of Aerovironment, which creates the backpackable drone — formally known as the Switchblade Agile Munition Systems — joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris to discuss how it works.
The Switchblade air vehicle launches from a small tube that can be carried in a backpack. It also transmits live color video wirelessly.
“In a general sense, it’s a highly precise, very portable targeted munition that we think is going to help our ground forces do their much more effectively and much more safely,” Gitlin said.
The Army awarded the company a nearly $5 million contract for the technology this summer. That contract culminated years of research and development on the project, Gitlin said.
We’ve been developing this game-changing capability for a number of years” while the firm has been demonstrating it for the last few, he added.
But, troops shouldn’t get too attached to the new tools. The Switchblade, which is designed to be more precise than larger ones is a “single-use munition,” Gitlin said — part of its low-cost appeal in a technology environment rife with more expensive and higher-powered drones.