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Army working on hovering, non-lethal drone-bazooka

Staff Sgt Jessica Ray in the Abenger Master Gunner course
The drone could be launched from a shoulder-mounted system like this oneJames Brabenec (IMCOM) / US Army

The Defense Department is known for researching some out-there ideas, and a bazooka that will fire a patient, intelligent hovering guard drone is no exception.

The drone could be launched from a shoulder-mounted system like this oneJames Brabenec (IMCOM) / US Army

Drones are playing a bigger part in warfare these days, but there are few that can be used quickly and effectively in combat. If the bad guy is getting away behind some rubble and your way is blocked, wouldn't it be nice to be able to send a drone after him? And more seriously, wouldn't it be good to know that this drone would accomplish its job with patience, and without unnecessary killing?

Seems like a lot to ask, but the need is real and the Army sees a lot of applications for this type of technology. What they are envisioning is called the Nonlethal Warhead for Miniature Organic Precision Munitions, based on earlier research into a more dangerous weapon, the Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System.

It would essentially be a hovering drone, fired from a bazooka-like device, that would hover over its victim until it had a clear shot and then tag the target with one of several possible nonlethal weapons. The drone would be accurate from 100 meters, more or less beyond the reach of small arms, and would only weigh a few pounds. But those few pounds could be enough when, in its "terminal phase" after it has hovered for too long and used up most of its fuel, it fires itself at a vehicle or other larger target, potentially striking it at up to 100mph.

The system is still in the earliest stages of development — we can only guess at what type of technology would be used for hovering, for instance — but it's certainly a real project. You can read further specifications here at the Army's Small Business Innovation Research intro paper.

— via Wired Danger Room

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website is coldewey.cc.