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An Australian based defense technology firm has developed a new form of loitering munition. The loitering munition is shaped like a 40mm canister with four rotors on the sides.
Drone 40 was developed by DefendTex as range expander for infantry, increasing the total operative range of infantry while decreasing their chances of encountering danger. This comes as a lightweight alternative to carrying heavier, more powerful firearms.
Drone 40 gets its inspiration from the 40 mm grenade launcher often used with basic infantry. The way the drone works is that it is fired from the 40 mm grenade launcher.
The drone is capable of flying for about 12 minutes when carrying a 110 gram payload. When missions are aborted or there is a change in plans, the operator can disarm the anti-personnel or anti-tank payload and land the drone for later recovery.
When not carrying deadly firearms, Drone 40 can carry a sensor as its payload. The sensor can provide crucial scouting information for troops in the field, turning the Drone 40 into a multi-use tool allowing for scouting and firing.
The drone has video streaming capabilities of over 10 kilometers when in direct line of sight with the operator. The drone can also record video and transmit it to the operator once the drone re-enters the command station’s line of sight.
The quadcopter also has autonomous capabilities. The loitering munition is capable of distinguishing certain shapes such as specific enemy tanks and following them autonomously.
The idea is for Drone 40 to operate with minimal human involvement. While human control still remains crucial for the drone’s operation, Drone 40 can operate with other Drone 40’s in a swarm, identifying and tracking targets autonomously.
For legal reasons, the drone needs a human operator to make the call to engage. So the drone’s are capable of doing almost everything autonomously, they just need a human to green light them.
Existing versions of the Drone 40 come relatively cheap, costing less than $1,000 each. With DefendTex stating goals of lowering that price to $500.
C4isrnet.com reports that DefendTex is also working on a larger Drone 81. Drone 81 follows more or less of the same concept as Drone 40 however it is designed to work with mortar tubes.
The idea of such technologies is that they are low cost and disposable, so they can be operated as loitering munitions in an effort to lower soldier’s risk.