Developing Smart Munitions that Transform Mid-Flight into UAVs

West Virginia University researchers are partnering with the U.S. military to produce a new line of smart munitions that would be ballistically fired like mortars or grenades but would transform into an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), capable of surveillance or payload delivery. The devices resemble 40- and 60-millimeter shells. They are easily transportable and their adaptability makes them capable of being launched and operated autonomously or with a guidance system, depending on the task. The shells' fold-in wings deploy once airborne, and, although light and compact, they carry complex electronics such as cameras and GPS, as well as actuators and weapons. "They can provide you with unprecedented, beyond the line of sight situational awareness on the battlefield," says principal investigator Mridul Gautam.