This is How the Switchblade Drone Works – Built by AeroVironment, the Switchblade loitering munition drone has been in use by the United States military for several years and has become one of the most widely-used unmanned aerial vehicles in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
But what are these drones, and how do they work?
Small and Portable Munitions
The Switchblade drone system is designed to be portable. It is an all-in-one system that includes a winged unmanned aerial vehicle inside of a tube that can be carried easily. The Switchblade 300 system can be carried inside of a rucksack, but the Switchblade 600 model is larger.
At the bottom of the tube is a chamber filled with gas that is used to propel the Switchblade drone out of the tube. As it is fired into the air, the wings automatically fold out like a switchblade – which is where the drone gets its name. As the drone leaves the tube, the wings immediately unfold and it begins to fly.
Once in the air, the drone can be operated from a distance thanks to the camera fitted inside of its nose. The operator can see where the drone is flying and scan the ground from the air.
Why is it Called the “Kamikaze” Drone?
The Switchblade drone has seen a lot of media coverage, owing to the fact that such a large number of these missile systems have been gifted to Ukraine by the United States.
The term “Kamikaze” refers to a kind of Japanese aircraft used in World War Two that was filled with explosives and deliberately flown directly into targets to deliver a weapons payload. By crashing into targets, these aircraft could only be used once, but allowed for a more accurate strike on various kinds of targets.
That’s just how the Switchblade drone works, which is why it is also commonly referred to as a “suicide” drone.
Switchblades are also exceptionally quiet, meaning the enemy can’t easily see them. As soon as it’s in the air, it becomes a dot in the sky, hard to see and hard to stop as it begins its descent.
They’re Not Invincible
While the Ukrainian military relies heavily on these drones on the battlefield, they are not invincible. If spotted, the drone can be jammed by the enemy.
Small drones are generally vulnerable to being jammed. That means the 2.4GHz or 5.8GHz frequencies that small drones typically use to communicate with ground control can be blocked, making it impossible for the operator to control the drone. This is already happening on the battlefield.
Switchblade drones can also be shot down if they are spotted soon enough.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.