Over the last decade, the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), colloquially known as ‘drones’, has revolutionized combat. As well as providing fire support, they also give real-time surveillance from on high. However, while large drones like the Predator or the Global Hawk are very good at viewing open spaces from above, they are less useful in urban environments, where buildings and other obstacles impede their view.
To provide vision on these kind of dangerous areas, what you need are robot eyes at ground level. This is where the PD-100 Black Hornet comes in. Produced by Norwegian Prox Dynamics, this is a drone so small it can fly around urban environments and even inside dwellings.
Inspired by insects like the dragonfly, the Black Hornet is lightweight and highly maneuverable. Despite being a mere 15g (about the weight of 3 sheets of paper), the drone can fly up for up to 25 minutes on a single battery charge, with a maximum range of approximately 1200m. As well as this, the drone is both fast - with a top speed of 10km/hour - and quiet, making it perfect for use in built up urban environments.
While it might look like a toy, the drone nonetheless is a serious military device. It comes equipped with 3 separate camera systems, which can provide both real-time video footage, as well as HD still photography.
The Black Hornet comes as part of a 1.3kg system, containing two drones, as well as a flight guidance screen. This system is small enough to be carried in a pocket, and is designed to be intuitive to users who are already familiar with video-game style controls. In addition to these manual controls, the drone also has the ability to autonomously navigate using on-board GPS.
Currently, this system is being used by the British Army in Afghanistan where it has been employed to search for concealed enemy snipers. The maker Prox Dynamics is also looking to market the drone for use by law enforcement, and civilian search and rescue agencies, however, at $50,000 a package, it doesn’t come cheap.