Friday, December 9, 2011

[tt] Army Wants Grenade ‘Bots to Fly, Spy, Then Kill

Army Wants Grenade 'Bots to Fly, Spy, Then Kill

By Katie Drummond | November 28, 2011 | 12:00 pm |

Categories: Army and Marines

The military's already got grenades that do plenty more than detonate: They
can spray rubber pellets, obliterate underwater opponents and even, uh, be
catapulted from the air in a tiny robocopter. But the next generation of
grenade? Oh, no biggie, it'll just navigate through the sky on-command, spy
on our enemies… and then blow them all up.

At least, if the Army's latest bright idea moves forward. In their new round
of small business solicitations, top brass are asking for proposals that'd
yield what amounts to a very deadly grenade-drone love child. Or, as the
Army's calling it, "A Hovering Tube-Launched Micromunition."

Already, the Army's made some impressive advances where grenade munitions are
concerned. Just last year, they ordered up hundreds of "Men in Black" grenade
launchers, capable of shooting "smart" grenades loaded with sensors and
microchips that communicate with a guidance system. And of course, drone
development is so hot right now. Used in surveillance for years, the unmanned
vehicles are now getting loaded up with missiles — or, as the newly developed
Switchblade Drone illustrates, turning into missiles themselves.

The Army's grenade-of-tomorrow would be capable of being fired off from a
launcher before it would "hover/loiter by using propulsion and glide"
according to navigational instructions sent by on-the-ground operators. The
loitering grenade would be able to maneuver itself for 10 minutes and up to
0.6 miles. Of course, the grenades wouldn't just mosey around. Each one could
"survey enemy targets by using a miniature day/night camera" and offer video
feed and GPS coordinates to troops.

It's easy to see how that kind of intel — taken inside compound walls, on the
12th floor of a building or anywhere else troops can't readily, safely access
— could be incredibly valuable. Not to mention that once soldiers have the
info they need, the hovering grenade can make the ultimate sacrifice. The
Army wants each one loaded with "a lethal payload" to blow whatever's spied
by the grenade's cameras to smithereens. Sounds a lot like the Switchblade,
which will offer surveillance and lethality in a "backpack sized" device,
except presumably even smaller. At this rate, it's only a matter of time
before death-from-above shrinks enough to turn the Air Force's adorable
micro-aviary into an extremely deadly one.

Photo: U.S. Air Force
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