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U.S. Army Is Testing Pocket-Sized Reconnaissance Drones

By Carl Engelking
Jun 2, 2015 12:36 AMNov 20, 2019 2:42 AM


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Credit: Proxdynamics Soldiers in the United States Army could someday have a new kind of “eyes in the sky." Since March, an Army Special Forces team has been testing a pocket-sized, lightweight reconnaissance drone that sends video feeds directly to a chest-mounted screen on a soldier’s vest.

Meet the Black Hornet

Norway’s Proxdynamics developed the minuscule drone, called the PD-100 Black Hornet, and it’s been in wide use among elite British soldiers for three years now. The Black Hornet is the size of a small bird and weighs just 18 grams, or about the weight of three pieces of paper. Despite its small size, the Black Hornet carries three cameras on board, including a thermal camera for nighttime missions. It can remain aloft for about 25 minutes, and has a range of just over a half mile.

But versatility is the main advantage for the Black Hornet. The entire surveillance system fits on a soldier’s utility belt. The drone itself is launched from a small box attached to the belt, and it is controlled with a video game-like controller. Video is then fed to a small monitor that fits squarely on the soldier’s chest. For security, the video feed is stored entirely in a drive on the soldier’s uniform, so enemies can’t see what the drone saw if it is captured.

A Bit Behind the Times

Soldiers in the British Brigade Reconnaissance Force have deployed Black Hornets in Afghanistan to scope out enemy compounds, Proxdynamics CEO Arne Skjaerpe told

Defense One.

Back in March, Army infantryman tested the Black Hornet at Fort Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence. Although the Black Hornet is tiny, its price is not: One system costs $40,000.

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