U.S.Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are beginning initial deployment of the Switchblade unmanned aerial system (UAS). A product of AeroVironment, the aircraft is light enough to be man-packable, simple enough to be deployed in minutes and can fly off over the horizon sending back video. It can loiter and watch silently (it's electric) and is so small that it is very difficult to detect at night, even at close range.
It has one more feature - it carries a warhead, so if a target of opportunity presents itself, the Switchblade has imaging sensors capable of identifying, tracking and guiding itself right to just that person, with minimal collateral damage.
Denoted as being "expendable" rather than "disposable", the Switchblade is the first of a new breed of miniature kamikaze drones. As the system has very accurate tracking algorithms, the Switchblade is very good at locking onto and following targets, a capability that will no doubt be invaluable in the theaters of war in which they will be deployed. Small groups of soldiers will now have a much higher level of situational awareness plus the assistance of silent invisible birds of prey capable of striking from the darkness of night.
While the Switchblade will be the first such armed miniature UAS on the battlefield, its incredibly useful capabilities will almost certainly see similar weapons being manufactured around the world.
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