Tim Owings, deputy project manager for Army unmanned aircraft systems, calls it a “kamikaze” aircraft.
Promotional material on the manufacturer’s website describes it as a “magic bullet.”
The Switchblade, produced by California-based AeroVironment, is a battery-powered mini-unmanned aircraft equipped with surveillance cameras.
But it also carries a small warhead. And it can fold its wings back and slam into a target like a missile.
Once engaged, the Switchblade locks on the target and flies autonomously toward it, exploding on impact.
“Infantrymen can take it out of a backpack, put it in the tube and use it as a weapon immediately,” says Stephanie Folster, a marketing coordinator at AeroVironment. “Lots of companies have contacted us with the idea of adding it to an aircraft or larger [unmanned system].”
The Switchblade is in its final stages of development, and the company plans to tout it as a tool that could be used by ground forces both for intelligence gathering and attack operations. The aircraft launches from a tube and is controlled by a handheld device.
Also, Folster says, the aircraft is scalable, meaning the company could produce larger or smaller versions to accommodate mission needs.
Owings, who was briefed on the aircraft at a recent industry conference, says the technology is promising.