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Armed Commercial Drones To Be in the Skies

Armed Commercial Drones To Be in the Skies

Commercial Drone Advancement

The US Army is progressing with its plans to create bomber drones similar to those used in Ukraine by selecting firms to demonstrate how to arm small commercial drones with various armaments. Two unidentified companies will present payload systems within the next eight to 12 months that enable the dropping of accessible munitions, such as 40mm or 60mm grenades, according to Dan Hilty, the Portfolio Manager for the Army Applications Laboratory. Soldiers must be able to securely attach and remove the munitions using these systems.

The demonstrations will provide valuable insights into the feasibility and practicality of utilizing commercial drones for military purposes, potentially revolutionizing how armed forces conduct their operations. This development showcases the US Army’s commitment to exploring innovative solutions for increasing battlefield efficiency and reducing risk to human soldiers.

Adopting Drones with Modified Controls

Ukrainian and Russian forces have both adopted commercial drones to deliver grenades and mortars. These drones, taken from the Pentagon’s approved list, can be altered to release munitions by simply modifying their existing controls. The use of commercial drones in military operations represents a significant shift in tactics, providing increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness in delivering payloads. The implementation of this technology has sparked concerns over potential escalation and increased civilian casualties, as these drones are not specifically designed for warfare.

Smaller, More Sophisticated Munitions Carriers

Two more companies are focusing on providing soldiers with smaller drones capable of carrying more sophisticated munitions. One firm is showcasing a drone weighing under 55 pounds that can launch a precision-guided missile. This innovative drone aims to increase the efficiency and accuracy of airborne attacks while reducing the risk to military personnel by allowing them to operate from a safe distance. As technology continues to advance, these lightweight drones have the potential to revolutionize modern warfare by offering enhanced capabilities and cost-effective solutions to various military operations.

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Integrating Lethal Drones into Infantry Units: The LASSO Initiative

These advancements are part of the Army’s effort to integrate lethal drones into infantry units, as demonstrated by the announcement of the Low Altitude Stalking and Strike Ordnance (LASSO) initiative in August. LASSO aims to equip soldiers with portable loitering munitions, with an objective to deploy the weapon across infantry brigade combat teams by 2024. The integration of these loitering munitions will allow ground forces to effectively engage targets at greater distances, enhancing both the soldiers’ safety and overall combat effectiveness. Additionally, this technology will provide infantry units with increased situational awareness and flexibility, enabling them to adapt to complex and rapidly changing battlefield conditions.

Addressing Cost Challenges for Loitering Munitions

However, cost is still an issue, as current loitering munitions like AeroEnvironment’s Switchblade 300 can be quite expensive. To make these systems more accessible, industry leaders are working on developing cost-effective solutions without compromising performance and efficiency. Advancements in technology and manufacturing processes may lead to decreased prices and increased availability for military and security forces in the future.

Practical Training Opportunities with Commercial Drones

Employing more affordable commercial drones could enable greater practical training opportunities for regular soldiers, as pointed out by Scott Boston, a Senior Defense Analyst at the RAND Corporation. This approach would not only reduce the costs associated with traditional military training exercises but also expose soldiers to more realistic scenarios, better preparing them for potential combat situations involving drone technology. Additionally, the integration of commercial drones in training could stimulate innovation in military tactics and strategies, as soldiers become more skilled in utilizing these advanced tools to their advantage.

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FAQ

What is the purpose of arming small commercial drones with munitions?

The purpose of arming small commercial drones with munitions is to explore the feasibility and practicality of utilizing commercial drones for military purposes, potentially revolutionizing how armed forces conduct their operations, increasing battlefield efficiency, and reducing risk to human soldiers.

How have Ukrainian and Russian forces used commercial drones in warfare?

Ukrainian and Russian forces have adopted commercial drones to deliver grenades and mortars. These drones, taken from the Pentagon’s approved list, can be altered to release munitions by simply modifying their existing controls. This provides increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness in delivering payloads.

What are the goals of the Low Altitude Stalking and Strike Ordnance (LASSO) initiative?

The goals of the LASSO initiative are to equip soldiers with portable loitering munitions, with an objective to deploy the weapon across infantry brigade combat teams by 2024. The integration of these loitering munitions will allow ground forces to effectively engage targets at greater distances, enhancing both safety and overall combat effectiveness.

What are some challenges in integrating loitering munitions into military operations?

One of the main challenges in integrating loitering munitions into military operations is the cost. Currently, loitering munitions like AeroEnvironment’s Switchblade 300 can be quite expensive. Industry leaders are working on developing cost-effective solutions without compromising performance and efficiency in order to make these systems more accessible.

How could using commercial drones in training benefit soldiers?

Using commercial drones in training could enable greater practical training opportunities for regular soldiers, reduce the costs associated with traditional military training exercises, expose soldiers to more realistic scenarios, better preparing them for potential combat situations involving drone technology, and stimulate innovation in military tactics and strategies.

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First Reported on: defenseone.com
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jimi Malmberg; Unsplash; Thank you!

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