U.S. Troops Will Soon Get Tiny Kamikaze Drone

A soldier launches a 'kamikaze' drone and watches its live feed as it flies out of a tube.

Image credit: AeroVironment

By Spencer Ackerman

AeroVironment calls its teeny-tiny killer drone the Switchblade. Essentially a guided missile small enough to fit in a backback and fire at a single foe, it might be the kind of blade U.S. troops soon bring to a gunfight with Afghan insurgents.

Most tiny drones the military uses, like the Puma or the Raven, are snoopers, not killers. Missiles are too heavy for those unmanned planes to carry, which is why the killer drones are usually the big boys like Predators or Reapers. That’s starting to change: a Northern California company called Arcturus has a drone with a mere 17-foot wingspan that totes a 10-pound missile.

AeroVironment, manufacturer of many tiny drones, is offering a different paradigm. Instead of carrying a missile, the drone is the missile. Unfolded from a size small enough to fit in a soldier’s rucksack — like a Switchblade; get it? — and launched from a tube, the spy cameras on board the drone scout an enemy position before the soldier controlling it sends it barreling into the target. It’s a strictly one-way mission.



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