The US Marines Corps tested a multi-purpose mini-drone designed to carry a range of payloads and be fired from grenade launchers.
Developed by Australian firm DefendTex, the Drone40 was photographed being hand-launched by a marine of the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
The unit is an “experimental infantry battalion to test new gear, operating concepts and force structures,” the US Department of Defense said.
The drone was first pictured publicly earlier this year when British Army troops stationed in Mali were reported to have received them as part of Operation Newcombe. Their mission was to provide logistical support for Operation Barkhane, a French-led regional counter-terrorism effort providing peacekeeping options to the United Nation’s Mali mission.
The US Army currently uses a similar-sized reconnaissance drone, Black Hornet, developed by Oregon-based Flir System. Around $85 million worth of Black Hornets has been ordered by the army since 2018.
With one eye on the future, these @USMC Marines experiment with the launch and retrieval of different kinds of drones at @camp_lejeune. They want to find the best way to take new gear to the battlefield. pic.twitter.com/aMFfOLEXEG
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) July 12, 2021
According to a DefendTex fact sheet, Drone40 has a variable length depending upon the payload. Its core length is 12 centimeters (4.7 inches) with a bodyweight of 190 grams (0.42 pounds) and a maximum takeoff weight of 300 grams (0.66 pounds).
The drone can be fired from a 40mm grenade launcher and be hand thrown as well.
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, DefendTex said in a graphic detailing the technology.
Can Perform Kinetic and Non-Kinetic Tasks
Apart from kinetic tasks, Drone40 can also be equipped with a video camera to carry out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.
It’s waterproof and recoverable when used in non-kinetic missions, DefendTex said, adding that when used in large quantities simultaneously it can carry out swarming functions to overwhelm enemy defenses.
Some of the other notable functions of the UAV include jamming enemy electronic communications and sensors when fitted with optional equipment.
Moreover, the drone can also be fitted with laser designators to mark targets for pinpoint strikes with precision-guided munitions.
DefendTex said the drone is controlled through a ground control station via encrypted radio data link and can remain airborne for 30 to 60 minutes with a range of up to 12 miles (19 kilometers).