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U.S. Marines Test Mini-Drones That Can Be Thrown or Launched

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Lance Cpl. Brian Schaeffer, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, scans for threats during a firefight with insurgents near the Bari Gul bazaar in the Nad Ali district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Dec. 4, 2013. Nearly 100 Marines and coalition forces service members engaged in the firefight with insurgents while patrolling the area to interdict Taliban movements and gather intelligence around the bazaar.

The U.S. Marines Corps has recently tested a multi-purpose mini-drone that has been designed to transport diverse payloads and be fired from grenade launchers.

According to defense writer Inder Singh Bisht at The Defense Post, the Drone40, which was developed by Australian firm DefendTex, was recently photographed while being launched by the Second Marine Division at Camp Lejeune in the state of North Carolina.

This particular unit is an “experimental infantry battalion to test new gear, operating concepts and force structures,” noted the U.S. Department of Defense.

Bisht added that “the U.S. Army currently uses a similar-sized reconnaissance drone, Black Hornet, developed by Oregon-based Flir System.” Since 2018, the Army has put in orders of roughly $85 million worth of the Black Hornets.

Cool Next-Generation Specs

The fact sheet from DefendTex has revealed that Drone40 features a variable length depending upon the type of payload. The length of its core is a shade less than five inches and weighs nearly two hundred grams. And the maximum takeoff weight comes in at three hundred grams.

Putting its versatility on full display, the drone is able to be fired from a 40mm grenade launcher and be thrown by hand as well. The drone, which is controlled via a ground control station through encrypted radio data link, is able to remain airborne for thirty to sixty minutes and boasts a range of up to twelve miles.

“The modular bay of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) allows handlers to fit a payload into the tiny aircraft according to the nature of the mission. The UAV can be equipped with munitions including counter-drone hard and soft kill options, flashbangs, and chemical smoke along with kinetic options,” writes The Defense Post.

“Apart from kinetic tasks, Drone40 can also be equipped with a video camera to carry out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions,” it adds.

Drone Swarming Functions

DefendTex added that the drones are “waterproof and recoverable when used in non-kinetic missions. … When used in large quantities simultaneously it can carry out swarming functions to overwhelm enemy defenses.”

These advances in drone-swarming technology should bode well for the U.S. military’s future missions relying on such aircraft, as there are currently several countries worldwide that are trying to make headway into this type of next-generation warfare.

This past spring, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) made use of a swarm of multi-copter drones to locate, identify, and strike Gaza militants during the “Guardian of the Walls” campaign.

According to Forbes, “the swarm proved so effective that the IDF is rolling them out to more units. New details show that it is already far more capable than other swarms under development.”

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

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