Since March, US Army Special Forces have been testing Black Hornets, lightweight reconnaissance drones from Prox Dynamics that are small enough to fit in your pocket. Each Black Hornet PD-100 is a micro unmanned aerial vehicle that weighs just 0.6 ounces and measures only 4 by 1 inches. Three onboard cameras provides full-motion video and still images to the operator. The camera array contains a thermal imaging camera for night missions. The Black Hornet has a range of just over a mile, and can remain in the air for up to 25 minutes per flight. The device is designed to operate quietly, and can navigate in winds up to 20 mph.
You can watch video live on the base unit, and the video is also stored on a SSD drive there. No video is stored on the drone itself, which means that if captured, enemies cannot see what the reconnaissance drone has viewed. The Black Hornet is controlled by a handheld controller reminiscent of a video game flight controller. It can hover in place or pan and tilt for precise image angles. The drone, controller, and base unit are all contained in a case that attaches to the soldier’s uniform.
|Inspecting case that contains base unit, controller, and drone.|
The base unit, which contains the display, provides a network connection to remote PCs and peripherals. You use the base unit to plan missions and analyze data. A built-in GPS autopilot mode allows the drone to operate on its own or return to base if the operator loses control or the signal is lost. You can program the PD-100 to follow predefined routes or built-in search patterns automatically.
The applications for this thing are endless. The Black Hornet is ideal in a wide variety of situations, such as for search-and-rescue missions to locate missing or injured persons, as well as for crowd control and otherwise monitoring large groups of people. The device can be fitted with chemical sensors and used for inspection of nuclear installations, chemical plants in case of accidents, or situations where it may not be safe for a human to go in right away. It can navigate inside buildings as well.
|Internal view of the PD-100|
The British Army have been using an earlier version of the PD-100 Black Hornet reconnaissance drone in Afghanistan for a couple of years. The neutral color blends in with muddy grey walls, and it’s being used to look over walls and around corners to search for enemies or possible traps.
The United States Army selected the Black Hornet after examining several commercially available alternatives. A contract was awarded to Prox Dynamics after they agreed to provide US-required refinements. Night vision, navigation enhancements, and communication improvements were quickly added and U.S. troops began testing the PD-100T in March of this year. I would imagine that in the future we’ll see them being used by local law enforcement as well. A future where war and crime is fought entirely with machines is a step closer.
Article found in Extreme Tech under Electronics.