FLIR Black Hornet III, in hand.

  • The US Army has put in an order for Black Hornet personal-reconnaissance drones - drone planes small enough to fit in a soldier's pocket.
  • These tiny drones, which are able to covertly and continuously cover the battlefield at ranges up to 2 kilometres for nearly a half hour, can send back real-time video and high-definition photos to the operator.

Pocket-size drones are on their way to US Army soldiers, offering a better view of the battlefield and giving them a lethal edge over enemies.

The Army has awarded FLIR Systems a $39.6 million (around R530 million) contract to provide Black Hornet personal-reconnaissance drones - next-level technology that could be a total game changer for US troops in the field - the company said in a recent press release.

The Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System

Measuring just less than 17cm in length and weighing only 33 grams, these "nano unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems" are "small enough for a dismounted soldier to carry on a utility belt," according to FLIR Systems.

These drones can provide situational awareness beyond visual line-of-sight capability day or night at a distance of up to 2 kilometres, covering ground at a max speed of 6 metres per second.

The "nearly silent" combat systems can provide constant covert coverage of the battlefield for almost a half hour, transmitting both live video and high-definition photographs back to the operator.

A life-saving tool for troops

FLIR said the drone's ability to covertly detect and identify threats will save the lives of troops in combat.

The US Army is looking at a number of technologies that will allow soldiers to spot and even fire on enemies without putting themselves in harm's way, such as night vision goggles connected to an integrated weapons sight that allows troops to shoot from the hip and around corners with accuracy.

On its way to troops this year

The new drones "will give our soldiers operating at the squad level immediate situational awareness of the battlefield through its ability to gather intelligence, provide surveillance, and conduct reconnaissance," Army spokesman Lt. Col. Isaac Taylor told Task and Purpose.

The drones will first be delivered to a single brigade combat team, but they will later be sent to platoons across the various brigade combat teams.

Deliveries will start early this year, FLIR said in its recent press statement.

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