US Army to trial Black Hornet nano-UAS in Afghanistan

Harry Lye 2 July 2019 (Last Updated July 5th, 2019 14:46)

The 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army is to begin trialling tiny reconnaissance drones made by UK thermal imaging specialist FLIR Systems, which will allow for immediate aerial reconnaissance on at squad level.

US Army to trial Black Hornet nano-UAS in Afghanistan
FLIR’s Black Hornet drone to be deployed in Afghanistan. Credits: FLIR.

The 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army is to begin trialling tiny reconnaissance drones made by UK thermal imaging specialist FLIR Systems, which will allow for immediate aerial reconnaissance on at squad level.

The Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System (PRS) nano-unmanned aerial system (UAS) can fly up to one mile from the receiver unit with a 25-minute flight time. It can transmit HD video including using night vision to increase situational awareness.

According to FLIR the system provides: “modern war-fighters with an easy to carry, truly pocket-sized solution they can deploy anywhere day or night for immediate covert situational awareness.”

Beginning this month, the drone will be issued to troops so the US Department of Defense (DoD) can assess the best way to use them in combat applications. If the trial proves successful, the DOD plans to roll out the miniature rotorcraft to most of its ground forces in future.

Weighing in at just over 30g and 16cm long, Black Hornets take up minimal space in a soldiers pack and can be launched in two minutes. The devices are near-silent to allow for covert use and not give away soldiers’ positions. FLIR says the system only requires three days of training allowing it to be quickly adopted by troops.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) was an early adopter of the drone and this year spent $1.8 billion on a new order of the system.

A spokesperson for the MOD told Army Technology: “The army will use these 30 BH3 [Black Hornets] to conduct experimentation into the transformative ability of light forces to scout their immediate surroundings, thereby significantly improving tempo, lethality and survivability.

“The army is also keen to explore the environmental tolerances these nano-UAS can operate in e.g. wind.  The army will use this information to better articulate its requirements, and is considering how best to share its findings with interested industry partners to stimulate the development of future nano-UAS.”

The technology has also been adopted by other countries including France and Germany. The US 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade is also set to receive the drone system later this year.