"In the near future, a soldier who needs a quick look over the next hill will be able to aim his rifle skyward, fire a grenade-sized reconnaissance device and instantly receive imagery on his pocket computer," writes Defense News' Barbara Opall-Rome."No special training or adaptation equipment is necessary" to fire the Firefly, from Israel's Rafael Armament Development Authority, or Israel Military Industry's Reconnaissance Rifle Grenade.Grunts just fire the disposable "ballistic cameras" from "standard-issue M203 grenade launchers attached to M16 or other assault rifles," and then wait for the pictures to come back, 8 seconds and 600 meters later.In this way, the ballisitc cameras a lot like the pint-sized drones which have become so popular among American company commanders in Iraq.In 2002, the U.S. Army had 25 year-long Raven unmanned mini-planes; today, company and platoon chiefs are using about 800 in combat."Why the boom?" I asked in Wired a few months back.
Eyes in the sky keep soldiers from getting killed. "The way you used to get intel on the battlefield was you fought for it, sending your squad into a building, forcing your way in," says former Army captain Phillip Carter. Now company commanders can see around corners and over hills - a God's-eye perspective that once was the domain of generals, with their Predators, manned spy planes, and satellites.The Ravens are simple to use -- one of the best-known operators is a cook. But, with no guidance system to operate, the ballistic cameras would be easier still: "point and shoot," to use a cliche. Which means the ability to see a battlezone from above could shift from a general to a captain to a buck private, rifle in hand.