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Handheld Black Hornet Nano drones issued to U.K. soldiers

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February 6, 2013

British soldiers in Afghanistan have been issued palm-sized Black Hornet Nano UAVs to scout around corners and obstacles for hidden dangers [Image: © Crown copyright]

British soldiers in Afghanistan have been issued palm-sized Black Hornet Nano UAVs to scout around corners and obstacles for hidden dangers [Image: © Crown copyright]

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Drones have become a valuable asset for any military force in recent years for both combat and surveillance. But while scanning a warzone from miles away is great from a tactical standpoint, unmanned aircraft can be just as useful in the hands of troops on the ground. That's why British soldiers in Afghanistan have been issued several Black Hornet Nanos, a palm-sized UAV that can scout around corners and obstacles for hidden dangers.

Each UAV measures just 4 x 1 inches (10 x 2.5cm) and weighs a mere 0.6 ounces (16 grams), making it easy for troops to carry along with the rest of their gear. A built-in camera transmits live video and still images to a handheld control unit at a range of up to half a mile (800 meters).

The Black Hornet Nano flies like a mini helicopter, but is stable enough to withstand harsh conditions and heavy wind. On a full charge, the tiny UAV can fly up to 30 minutes at a top speed of 22 mph (35 km/h), giving soldiers on the ground ample time to quickly survey an area. An operator can also use the control unit to pilot the drone directly or input a set of GPS coordinates for it to follow on its own.

Prox Dynamics AS, based in Norway, developed the Black Hornet Nano as a smaller follow-up to its previous PD-100 Personal Reconnaissance System, which was originally designed for search and rescue tasks. The British military first put the little drone to use in Afghanistan in 2012, following a £20m contract with Marlborough Communications Ltd. to supply 160 of them to troops in the area.

So far, the military has already stated the Black Hornet Nano has been a helpful tool for spotting enemy shooters and explosive traps in the field. The British Ministry of Defence has also noted that this is one of many new innovative gadgets planned for the coming years.

Source: Ministry of Defence via BBC

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About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher
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21 Comments

I can see how extremely helpful these will be, but £125,000 per copter?? Are you sure? About $100 each I would have thought, and maybe another $100 for the controller.

What code / protection system is built in to prevent enemy troops snatching your copter and then using it to Monitor your position?

JPAR

JPAR "I can see how extremely helpful these will be, but £125,000 per copter?? Are you sure? About $100 each I would have thought, and maybe another $100 for the controller."

and I thought only the US military screwed it's tax payers

tampa florida

Considering all that the little copter is cabable of doing, the price does not seem to bad. I doubt one can do what it does with one of those little copters that one sees being sold on television.

If it saves lives, I think the cost is well worth it.

BigGoofyGuy

The price may seem a bit steep, but keep in mind that not only have they packed quite a bit of electronics into that small package, but also an electric motor and a battery pack capable of running it all for a whole 30 minutes. A $100 RC helicopter with no fancy bells or whistles (like recording & transmitting video) will get maybe 10 minutes.

Joel Detrow

JPAR - "What code / protection system is built in to prevent enemy troops snatching your copter and then using it to Monitor your position?"

Fortunately that's a secret.

Todd Dunning

How do they recharge in the field?

How do they "party in the chowper" ?

How noisy is it?

Does it self destruct if it crashes?

krakkah

UK enemies will start packing 12 ga bird shot shells...

Giolli Joker

Can't see any doors, how does the pilot get in and out?

Philip Porter

@JPAR,

The signal would no doubt be encrypted, and no doubt, if the drone was seized by the enemy, the operator would be instantly aware of that. And in order for the enemy to use it to their own ends, they would need a controller with display- not the sort of thing they are likely to have any time soon.

Does seem extremely expensive though- although worth it to save lives.

bergamot69

What do you get for $100? 1) A copter which can only be controlled to maybe 100 meters away, or as far as an ad-hoc wifi signal can transmit. 2) Low quality video, if any video at all. 3) 10 minutes battery.

This next part is based of the development contract price and reports. It is not the actual price of each individual kit. But since, from the comments, it looks like nobody understands what a development contract is not, I'll go from what you think it is.

What do you get for £125,000? 1) A copter which uses a secure (DDL) network, capable of transmitting over 800 meters 2) GPS navigation 3) High quality, stabilized, pan-tilt, and mechanically zoomed video 4) 30 minutes battery 5) Carbon-fiber propellers 6) Super-quiet operation 7) Waterproof 8) Hover and stare, preprogrammed search routes 9) Base Station • Mission Planning, Execution and Analyses • Display connections, Functions and System Controls • Storage of Mission Data including Video and Images • Connections to PC, Network and other Peripherals • UAVs housed inside for Protection and Support

Phyvel Lavine

I assume the 20 million pounds included research, development and tooling. Subsequent orders should be much cheaper. Unless they sell them to U.S. military who seems proud of how much they can spend on something.

mike65401

Nice gizmo but the price is outrageous. Wish I owned some Prox Dynamics stock. No doubt some American company can come up with an even MORE expensive version for out troops. The money we humans spend to kill each other off worldwide boggles the mind. Only homo sapiens...

JAT

Seems like the wrong color... white??

Maybe a soft blue gray or green.

Awfully nice!

Bill

Lewis Dickens

I'm assuming most of that budget is for R&D...can't wait for them to go on the surplus market, though. :)

Bryan Paschke

Neat little unit. Next step, make little Grenade helicopters. Buzz around the corner, spy a bad guy and BLAM! One Less!

grtbluyonder

re; grtbluyonder

Grenades is so wasteful. What is needed is a rocket propelled slug like a Gyrojet but with a shorter launch tube.

Slowburn

There is a video on youtube of a guy who strapped a machine gun to the underside of four bladed UAV. The results were much more destructive than anything this over priced hummingbird could do.

At least we know why the Taliban have started taking tennis lessons.

toolman65

Spin Masters Air Hogs HawkEye video helicopter, $99. HawkEye Blue Sky video airplane, $40.

Throw a few thousand $ at that toy company for R&D and I bet they could include radio transmission of the video and increase the flight time, for only double the price per unit.

Gregg Eshelman

I am guessing that the real expense is making it resistant to being hacked and feeding disinformation to its user and a premium for secret keeping processes maintained by the company. The paper work is a female dog.

Slowburn

White shell, hmmm? Well, perhaps mould each body out of C4 explosive, so that if it is captured, the operator simply sends a signal and suddenly, someone is without a hand (or head if they are inspecting it!).

C4 is not that easy to explode, or even burn - it requires a detonator, and that could be incorporated into the hull somehow.

Just an idea...

Edwin Wityshyn

$200,000 USD each! this is an outrage, no way in hell will the US let the Brits out screw the taxpayers! The US version will cost at least half a million, go USA! (plus ours will have a cool camo paint scheme, maybe with flames)

Tom Swift
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