The Army has made its first batch order of a helicopter-style minidrone that can be used by individual soldiers for short range reconnaissance.
If the “Black Hornet” continues to perform at Army expectations in ongoing tests it could be one of the soldier-borne sensors distributed across Army infantry units.
The PD-100 Black Hornet was first purchased by the Army in small quantities to meet recon needs of troops in Afghanistan in 2016. It weighs 18 grams, can shoot video and take snapshots with its camera and previous versions had about a 25-minute flight time.
Some mini-drones can only shoot video.
The FLIR Systems drone is part of a $2.6 million contract for personal reconnaissance systems.
“The United States Army’s selection of FLIR to provide the Black Hornet PRS in this initial delivery of the Soldier Borne Sensor program represents a key opportunity to provide soldiers in every U.S. Army squad a critical advantage on the modern battlefield,” said James Cannon, President and CEO of FLIR Systems.
The Black Hornet is the first batch order for the Soldier Borne Sensor program. Low level sensors have been a focus across squad, platoon and company efforts for both Army and Marine programs.
The Marines have also tested the Black Hornet.
Officials with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force told Army Times earlier this year that the new version of the Black Hornet will be nearly twice the size of past versions because the larger size will allow it to carry “payloads.”
REF officials did not identify what types of payloads might be used by the minidrone.
According to a FLIR Systems press release, delivery of the new Black Hornets is expected this calendar year. The company did not specify the quantity of drones to be supplied to the Army.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.