First ‘tactical overwatch’ mini-drones delivered to US troops (VIDEO)

First ‘tactical overwatch’ mini-drones delivered to US troops (VIDEO)
A California-based drone maker has unveiled the Snipe, a miniature scouting quad-copter designed for tactical use by infantry in the field. Some 20 of the 5-ounce drones have already been delivered to the US government, the company said.

AeroVironment Inc. already makes small scouting drones, such as the Puma and the Raven. On Tuesday, the company posted a video introducing the Snipe as a tactical breakthrough for small infantry units, giving them the ability to safely scout their surroundings.

The Snipe weighs 4.9 ounces (140 grams) and is capable of flying for about 15 minutes at a maximum speed of around 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) within a one-kilometer (0.62-mile) range, according to the company. Both the drone and the controller can be carried by a soldier in the field and deployed in under a minute.

Though the drone’s battery lasts only about 15 minutes, it is replaceable in the field. The company is boasting the Snipe’s ability to provide “immediate organic tactical overwatch – over the wall, down the alley, around the hill.”

The miniature scouting drone has a low-light yield camera, as well as an infrared camera for night missions, and is equipped with digital video stabilization to aid the operators, according to Roger Schuck, AeroVironment’s technical lead for the Snipe project.

The scouting drone can be controlled manually or programmed for autonomous navigation, the company says. A soldier in the field carries the drone with the touch-screen tablet, which is used as the controller and video display, in a pouch on their person. Only “minimal training” is required to operate the Snipe due to its “intuitive” control system, according to AeroVironment.

CNN reported that AeroVirnoment delivered the first batch of 20 Snipes in April. The drone will not be available on the consumer market, which a company spokesman described to CNN as “extremely price sensitive.”

The Snipe’s price tag has not been disclosed.