Not all mini-drones are hacked off commercial platforms. During the recent Army 2016 exhibition, the Russian MOD Robotics Center (GNIITS) unveiled the ‘Hawk’, a miniature three-rotor surveillance drone designed to carry a payload of 0.7 kg, which includes a thermal camera or a magnetometer for countermine missions. On attack mission or two grenade size bombs for attack purposes. The Hawk measures 900×900 mm in size and 250mm in height. It weighs three kilograms and can fly up to 50 minutes, at a maximum speed of 72 km/h at an altitude 2000 meters above ground level.
The Rotem L, introduced this year by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) follows a similar path, using a folding quadrotor platform that can carry a payload of one kilogram, to attack ‘soft targets’ such as personnel or vehicles exposed in otherwise accessible locations. Unlike the Hawk, Rotem-L is a loitering weapon, which means its explosive load is activated on the platform, thus the platform’s sensors ensure continuous imaging of the target until the last second.
The US Army has also adopted weaponized mini-drones in recent years. The Army Close Combat Weapons Systems Project Office has recently awarded Aerovironment a follow-on contract for Block 10C Switchblade Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile Systems (LMAMS) and support services valued at $22 million through a Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statement. The company is expected to deliver the weapons within 12 months. During the conflict in Syria LMAMS have been spotted in several locations, indicating the use by US Special Forces or supported organizations.
The Israeli company Uvision has also developed the Hero 30 mini loitering weapon, powered by a single electrically driven pusher propellor. The drone uses two cruciform fins, for controlled flight and terminal dive at high speed. Addressing significant interest from foreign customers, UVision have entered marketing agreement with a number of foreign companies, including Raytheon in the USA and Thales in Europe.