REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala., 5 Sept. 2013. Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designers at AeroVironment Inc. in Monrovia, Calif., are building manpackable killer drones for the U.S. Army under terms of a $6.6 million contract announced Wednesday.
The Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., are asking AeroVironment to put its UAV experience to work building the Switchblade -- a loitering munition that launches from a small tube that can be carried in a warfighter's backpack.
The Army Contracting Command awarded the latest Switchblade contract on behalf of the Army Close Combat Weapons Systems Program Executive Office Missiles and Space (PEO MS).
The Switchblade system transmits live color and infrared video wirelessly after launch for display on a small ground control unit. The operator confirms the target using the live video feed, commands the air vehicle to arm its payload and lock its trajectory onto the target.
Switchblade flies quickly and quietly, and strikes with precision to keep collateral damage to a minimum, experts say. The operator can call off a strike, if necessary, even after the munition is armed. The backpackable system weighs six pounds.
It's like a smart mortar system, yet instead of launching up and then down on a sharp ballistic arc, it lofts into the air, helps the operator search for targets, and attacks targets when found.
The munition is increasingly popular among U.S. fighting forces. The Army awarded AeroVironment contracts worth $15.8 million for Switchblade last month, and then awarded another $6.6 million for the portable killer drone this week. AeroVironment also won a $4.9 million contract two years to produce the Switchblade remote-control munition.
“Switchblade is the first smart loitering weapon, giving our troops a new force protection capability that can deliver precision effects kilometers away with in-flight retargeting, target verification and pinpoint delivery, all resulting in little or no collateral effects,” says Roy Minson, AeroVironment senior vice president and general manager of the company’s unmanned aircraft systems business segment.