Tiny, adorable microcopter UAVs gives British troops handheld reconnaissance

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Sergeant Rupert Frere RLC/Ministry of Defence
Sergeant Scott Weaver launches a Black Hornet Nano Unmanned Air Vehicle from a compound in Afghanistan.

We’ve already seen tiny helicopters used for remote office warfare and some real geeky games of beer pong. Now the UK military has something more serious in mind with a palm-sized UAV that they can use as a personal surveillance drone.

The Black Hornet Nano is a microcopter that measures just four inches by one inch and weighs a mere 0.6 ounces (16 grams). The Norway-based Prox Dynamics developed its tiny camera UAVs to help soldiers on the ground quickly check around corners or scout ahead for danger.

Prox Dynamic

Each of these Black Hornets come equipped with a pan-and-tilt camera that streams video and still images back to the operator’s handheld control unit. The microcopter can fly up to 30 minutes at a top speed of 22 miles per hour (35 kilometer per hour) with a maximum range of half a mile (approximately 800 meters).

While a UAV equipped with the ARGUS-IS camera system can give troops a birds-eye view of everything going on in an entire city, the Black Hornet is there to deliver reconnaissance exactly where troops need it, either by manually piloting the drone with the thumbstick controller or setting a GPS waypoint.

The Black Hornet Nano UAV is currently deployed with British troops in Afghanistan. According to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the microcopter has already been a great help in surveying areas before soldiers go across exposed ground. The MoD plans to buy even more drones with a £20 million contract (around $31 million) for 160 units.

[Ministry of Defence and Prox Dynamic via IEEE Spectrum ]

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