British Army troops stationed in Mali are using mini-drones that can be fired from grenade launchers and are designed to carry a range of payloads.
British Army contingent will use Drone40 as part of Operation Newcombe, which provides logistical heavy-lift support to French counter-terror efforts and conducts long-range reconnaissance patrols to gather intelligence on behalf of the UN mission in the country. The Drone40 was tested in October 2020 during Mission Rehearsal Exercise build-up training for the Mali deployment. The Light Dragoons and Royal Anglian Regiment have deployed as part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) in Mali. Their assgnment to provide long range surveillance patrolling for the UN contingent is an excellent operational framework for the 40mm drone.
The Drone40 core length is 12 centimeters (4.7 inches) with a bodyweight of 190 grams (0.42 pounds) and a maximum takeoff weight of 300 grams (0.66 pounds). Australian firm DefendTex developed the grenade launcher-fired mini-drones with the assistance of a federal Defence Innovation Contract to encourage Australian businesses to innovate in the defense field. Its debut at the 2019 SOFIC or Special Operations Forces Industry Conference. The round can be loaded with a variety of payloads including counter-UAV hard and soft kill options, flashbangs and chemical smoke along with kinetic options. The original DefendTex 40mm design, developed to be launched from a stand-alone or under-barrel 40mm grenade launcher has now been joined by variants in a range of larger calibres including mortar delivered 60, 81 and artillery delivered 155mm options.
The Drone40 is not a standard drone though, it has built-in rotors, and just like a real grenade, contains an explosive payload, it can also conduct reconnaissance and surveillance missions, fly in a swarm with other drones, and even pop smoke, and has a maximum range of 12.5 miles, with a 30 to 60 minute flying time, dependant on its payload. The drone is an autonomous, loitering grenade deployed from either a 40mm grenade launcher or hand launch. Drone40 gives a single soldier multiple round simultaneous impact (MRSI) capabilities. Utilising a standard 40mm grenade launcher, multiple munitions can be launched, each munition working as a force multiplier. It is disposable and reusable too. When used in a non-kinetic scenario the Drone40 is recoverable and reusable.