Hand-Sized Drone Latest In Warfare Technology

Credit: Soldier Systems
Credit: Soldier Systems

Drone: Countries around the globe are ceaseless pursuers of the latest and greatest warfare technologies. It was once a case of “bigger is better” — guns, planes, tanks – but the modern battlefield is coming down to who can sneak up on an enemy and do the most damage with the smallest weapon.

Into this pursuit of small weapons comes the most recent development in drone technologies, a grenade-dropping one that fits in the palm of a hand.

It is capable of dropping ammunition from great heights, while the operator is safely ensconced well behind the front lines. It has been developed by a company based in Melbourne, Australia, called DefendTex, and was recently on display at a war equipment manufacturers’ exhibit in the southern U.S.

Its manufacturer claimed the drone can fly for 12 minutes, or hover for 20, and go a distance of six miles, presumably over any terrain. It can reach a speed of 45 mph.

The company did not specify whether any countries’ military has purchased it yet or invested in the technology, but presumably customers are not far off. Its primary application is active warfare, though DefendTex said it has other, non-lethal uses too, such as launching smoke grenades or as a tool for reconnaissance.

The Drone-40 is shaped rather like a big bullet, oblong and cylindrical. Four rotors, shaped like those on a helicopter, work together to keep it in the air. Another part of its appeal, according to DefendTex, is that the Drone-40 is relatively inexpensive.

It is loaded into a typical grenade launcher, and can add “range and punch” the company literature said, to difficult terrain traditional soldiers may not be able to access. In other words, this drone may help make rough, inhospitable ground a moot point for infantrymen.

Many of the drones an be sent into battle at the same time, to effectively “douse” the enemy from above. According to Soldier Systems, an industry newsletter that sponsored the conference and exhibit, “with these mixed-of-payload types, (the) Drone-40 can be used individually, paired, or as a swarm, to a variety of effects.

For example, a team could launch one or more integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) configured munitions, along with a swarm of anti-armour payloads and loiter over an ambush spot, waiting for a vehicle column. With multi-round simultaneous impact mode, multiple effects can be achieved at once, depending on the type of payload delivered.”

If it all sounds a little terrifying – drones overhead dropping grenades from heights that make them nearly invisible until the destruction begins – the Drone-40 was not the only development in warfare technology on exhibit in Florida.

According to The Sun a U.K.-based online publication that covered the event, the Russians are also developing new drones, the approximate size of domestic cats.

Furthermore, they’re working on extra large robots for the battlefield, presumably to take the place, or be supportive of, regular troops. The robots have artificial muscle that is supposedly 15 times stronger than its toughest, strongest human counterpart.

The robot is capable of lifting 1,000 times its own weight – at least that’s the hope of its manufacturer.  One scientist familiar with the project who was quoted in The Sun coverage said, “It can push, pull, bend, twist and lift weight. It’s the closest artificial material we have to a natural muscle.”

These advancements are touted by companies that stand to make enormous amounts of money if military forces around the world decide to embrace them. For now, robots and drones may seem like the stuff of science fiction.

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But they are changing the modern battlefield, and it’s not known yet if that will have a positive influence on warfare, or simply motivate politicians to start wars more often, as justification for spending millions of taxpayer money on these weapons.  We can only hope that, no matter how tempted to use shiny new “toys,” governments may be, military personnel will always try to find a peaceful solution to problems first.