Guest Author - Ray Hanisco
You are with an Infantry Unit on foot patrol in Afghanistan, and your squad must cross a three hundred meter expanse with no cover. It is a perfect spot to be ambushed. What do you do? If you were with a United Kingdom Infantry Unit, the answer would be to launch the PD-100 Personal Reconnaissance System better known as the Black Hornet. It is a drone Nano-copter that fits in your pocket, regulated by a single handed controller, sending videos back to your tablet monitor, and it flies at speeds up to 22 mph (35 km/hr). With an all clear, your squad crosses safely. This is the latest technology available to keep Infantry soldiers safe.
Since August of 2012, the British Government has about three hundred Black Hornets being used by the UK’s Brigade Reconnaissance Force working out of Camp Bastian, Afghanistan. Another, one hundred and sixty units are on order. They were purchased through Marlborough Communications, Limited, and developed by Prox Dynamics AS, of Norway.
Some of the statistics on the Black Hornet are:
*Length/Width – 4.7”/1” (10 cm/2.5 cm)
*Weight of drone (including batteries) – About ½ of an ounce (16 grams)
*Color – Muddy grey for Afghan terrain
*Cameras – Three: one pointing forward, one pointing directly downward, one 45º front and down
*Imaging – Both video and still digital photographs
*Maximum Flight Time – 20 to 30 minutes on fully charged battery (reports vary)
*Noise level – Inaudible
*Maximum Top Speed – 22 mph (35 km/hr)
*Set up for launch – within 60 seconds
*Controller – single handed pistol grip type
*Monitor – Tablet size
*Maximum Range – 875 to 1093 yards (800 to 1000 meters) (reports vary)
*Environmental Operation – Withstand Afghanistan environment and stable in high winds
*Forward Observation Capable – Internal 10 grid reference for directing artillery and air strikes
*Packaging – two aircraft, one controller, and one monitor
*Price tag -- $195,000 per unit
The manufacturer, Prox Dynamics, points out that the PD-100 Personal Reconnaissance System could be utilized for a variety of missions; citing, Search and Rescue, Recon in confined areas (inside buildings), Recon in outdoor areas, Observations behind, between, and around objects, for a bird’s eye view of an area, for Surveillance, and for Object Identification (booby traps). The Black Hornet requires very little training to operate the systems, and piloting experience is not necessary.
The British Infantry troops find the Nano-copter useful for “local situation awareness,” because its use does not require headquarters’ permission for utilization. It puts the deployment of the device in the field where it belongs.
In late January, 2013, the US Army ordered two of the Black Hornet units to be delivered to the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center for testing under the program name of Cargo Pocket Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (CPISR). Should the experimentation prove to be successful, the Department of Defense intends to issue the Nano-copters at the infantry squad level.