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Backpack drone a "magic bullet" for U.S. troops?

A Predator, a more heavily armed successor to the Predator, in flight. The drone, manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of San Diego, is supported by a ground control station, a satellite communications terminal and 55 personnel. In flight, this UAV and its on-board sensors are controlled by the ground crew with a direct data link. When the craft flies beyond the range of a direct link, the ground crew maintains control though a satellite data link. Although its primary function is for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, it can launch Hellfire anti-tank missiles U.S. Air Force

For the U.S. military, fighting insurgents in Afghanistan may get a lot stealthier and easier.

According to the British newspaper The Times, U.S. troops will soon be able to deploy the Switchblade, a miniature drone that can be stored in a backpack and offer a new method to locating and killing enemy targets.

The new drone is to be used in the field on a upcoming mission to southern and eastern Afghanistan, said the paper.

Manufactured by California-based AeroVironment, Inc., the Switchblade is fired from a small tube and can transmit wireless live color video that is shown on a ground control unit. When the video feed confirms the target, the operator issues an order to the Switchblade to arm it and lock on the target.

"Flying quietly at high speed the Switchblade delivers its onboard explosive payload with precision while minimizing collateral damage," said the company in a press release.

The company also added that the Switchblade can call off a strike even after it is armed.

"It's like a flying shotgun...quite scary," said Daniel Wasserbly, a reporter for Jane's Defence Weekly.

AeroVironment calls its product a "magic bullet," whose miniature size and quiet motor makes it hard for detection, and is accompanied by real-time GPS coordinates.

The U.S. Army appears impressed by the Switchblade's features: it awarded a $4.9 million contract to AeroVironment this past June for deployment.

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