It weighs 16 g, can fly for up to 20 minutes, and fits in the palm of your hand. It’s the Prox Dynamics PD-100 Black Hornet, a mini helicopter which uses embedded cameras and a digital data link to provide real-time video for ground troops. Information is king on the battlefield, and this pocket-sized UAV offers advanced situational awareness for soldiers with negligible impact on troop load.
Ever been on a hike with 70-100 pounds strapped to your back? It sucks. Trust me. Our brave servicemembers tote heavy loads regularly (especially in a warzone), so any “additions” can’t weigh them down further. And at .035 lbs, the PD-100 Black Hornet provides a valuable service without burdening anyone.
Under the Cargo Pocket Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (CP-ISR) program, the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center has been tasked with developing a small aerial system to give dismounted troops increased situational awareness.
And situational awareness — and knowing more than the enemy — wins wars.
"While larger systems have been used to provide over-the-hill ISR capabilities on the battlefield for almost a decade, none of those delivers it directly to the squad level, where soldiers need the ability to see around the corner or into the next room during combat missions," the Army said.
One of these squad-based ISR systems is the Black Hornet. Operated remotely via GPS, this diminutive drone is small, quiet, and virtually undetectable. And at 4 inches x 1 inch, it won’t present a fat, enticing target for the enemy.
The PD-100 was already issued to the UK Armed Forces last year (see picture above), and early returns are promising. The company will need to initiate a data-link redesign to make the pocket-sized ‘copters compatible with the US Army's tactical network.
Otherwise, there should be few hurdles to the Black Hornet’s immediate deployment with US forces, and the system will pay for itself the first time it uncovers an ambush, weapons cache, or other imminent threat.