AeroVironment demonstrated the ability to use an unmanned aerial vehicle’s camera and sensors to automatically guide a missile drone into a fast-moving unmanned boat.

During the simulated attack, a Puma UAV was able to find, identify and direct a counterattack against a target boat using a Switchblade missile drone armed with a dummy warhead, AeroVironment said on 9 April. The Switchblade was launched from a US Navy Coastal Riverine Craft, a small, armed boat used in shallow waters or rivers, on an undisclosed date.

The ability to coordinate an attack using the camera and sensor feeds from Puma and Switchblade drones simultaneously gives operators more situational awareness and reduces the chances of accidentally hitting civilians or friendly forces, AeroVironment said. The company touted the ability to wave off the Switchblade should the possibility of collateral damage arise.

“Our sensor-to-shooter solution greatly enhances Switchblade’s capability to positively identify targets and reduce engagement timelines by performing target identification and location functions prior to launch,” said Rick Pedigo, vice-president of AeroVironment’s tactical missile systems business. “By continuously updating the target location throughout the engagement, S2S significantly reduces the Switchblade operator’s workload.”

The sensor-to-shooter system incorporates AeroViroment’s drones, a ruggedised laptop with S2S software, a digital data link module and a gain antenna. Switchblade systems already received by customers can be upgraded with the S2S capability, AeroVironment said.

Future enhancements will include a multi-pack launcher that holds up to six Switchblade munitions and software that allows operators to control multiple air vehicles simultaneously, AeroVironment. S2S currently is a prototype with plans for product release in the fall of 2018.