Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Switchblade: Not a UAV to Mess With

Switchblade: Not a UAV to Mess With: "

AeroVironment says it has conducted an 'end-to-end demonstration' of its Switchblade lethal mini-UAV. As demonstrated, the battery-powered Switchblade is a backpackable UAV that is launched from a tube, unfolds its tandem wings, and sends back streaming video from an electro-optical sensor.

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Artwork: AeroVironment

But when a target is detected, the operator designates it on the hand-held controller, the 2lb Switchblade folds its wings back under the fuselage and becomes a weapon, autonomously guided by video tracker on to the target, exploding the small warhead.

AeroVironment doesn't have any orders yet for the Switchblade, but in its third-quarter analysts' call on Mar. 9 the company said two new customers have funded demonstrations of different applications of the UAV. The back-packed tube-launched demo just completed was funded by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.

The small-UAV specialist seems confident of selling the Switchblade and thinks it could get from contract to production in about 18 months. Switchblade is one of several UAVs under development at AeroVironment. They include a DARPA-funded version of the Wasp micro-UAV that can takeoff and land vertically, hover and 'perch and stare'. Likely the inspiration for this cartoon from company presentation...

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Artwork: AeroVironment

(Via Ares.)

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