October 28, 2011: The U.S. Army recently revealed that it sent some Switchblade UAV systems to Afghanistan last year, for secret field testing. This was apparently successful. It appears that Switchblade is currently used largely by Special Forces and other special operations troops. In September, it was announced that, after a year of successful testing, the army was ordering over a hundred Switchblade UAVs for troop use.
The Switchblade is a one kilogram (2.2 pound) expendable (used only once) UAV that can be equipped with explosives. The Switchblade is launched from its shipping and storage tube, at which point wings flip out, a battery powered propeller starts spinning and a vidcam begins broadcasting images to the controller. The Switchblade is operated using the same gear the larger (two kg/4.4 pound) Raven UAV employs.
Switchblade can also be launched from the 70mm rocket tubes used on army helicopters. Moving at up to a kilometer a minute, the Switchblade can stay in the air for 20-40 minutes (depending on whether or not it is armed with explosives.) The armed version can be flown to a target and detonated, having about the same explosive effect as a hand grenade. Thus the Switchblade could be useful for ground troops, to get at an enemy taking cover in a hard to see location. Switchblade completed development two years ago. Technically a guided missile, the use of Switchblade as a reconnaissance tool encouraged developers to refer to it as a UAV.