Range of 2km, Endurance of 90 mins
According to information released by the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) last week, its scientists have developed a camera drone to be launched from 40mm automatic grenade launchers (AGL).
The Grenade Launched Unmanned Aerial System (GLUAS) comes in two forms: a small paragliding system with folding-blade propellers and Mylar wings; and a rotorcraft with a gimbaling set of coaxial rotors. The 40mm-calibre GLUAS can achieve a 2km range and loiter for around 90mins and altitudes up to 2,000ft: the breakthrough has been achieved as the miniaturisation of autonomous flight hardware has accelerated, according to ARL mechanical engineer John Gerdes.
The lightweight GLUAS is designed to increase soldier lethality by providing a bird’s eye view of the battlefield in a wide variety of tactical situations and will easily integrate into soldier-borne equipment. “This device provides an autonomy and intelligence platform to help soldiers perform useful missions while having a lookout from hundreds of feet in the air […] This integrates modern types of intelligence,” Gerdes commented.
“[GLUAS] is aligned with Army modernization priorities,” echoed Hao Kang, another mechanical engineer with ARL. “We’re trying to provide capabilities to individual soldiers. The most exciting part of this is the viability of this platform, coupled with its gun-launched deployment capabilities.” Although they are making technological breakthroughs at ARL, the scientists are not working on the same timelines as other developers, he added.
“We’re here to develop innovative concepts for the warfighter’s needs, which generally means we bring the size and weight down of a device, and push up the range and lethality […] At ARL, we’re typically focused on the basic innovation and discovery aspects of research,” Gerdes observed. “Things like GPS receivers and flight controllers are very feasible to install [onto the GLUAS], which makes it easy to maintain a position or follow a ground unit […] Basically, if there is something you want to look at, but you have no idea where it is yet, that’s where the drone comes in.”