At DronePunks, we don’t normally talk about military drones – which tend to be high altitude aircraft that can stay aloft for days rather than the quadcopter units used by the professional and consumer drone market. However, quadcopters are currently passing a tipping point and are soon going to be found absolutely everywhere, whether inspecting bridges and powerlines, hovering over your wedding or in the hands of the police. With an explosion in functionality and practicality, the military naturally wants in on it, which is why the US Army is looking at equipping troops with pocket-sized micro-drones to assist with battlefield reconnaissance and to provide solders with “real-time situational awareness”.
The Black Hornet on display
The US Army wants to launch its ‘Soldier Borne Sensors’ platform by 2018, and is modelling its design on the easy-to-use PD-100 Black Hornet, used by the British and Norwegian military. The specs for the US ‘Blacker Hornet’ call for a unit that can be deployed in under a minute, with a flight time of 15m and a total unit weight of less than 150g (approximately the weight of an iPhone 6s). It also needs to be long range, cope with wind and come with a high-quality camera. While you might be fond of your DJI Phantom 4, the Black Hornet comes in at an eye-watering $200,000, so its unclear just how much the ‘Blacker Hornet’ is going to cost. The Army are reportedly looking for something more affordable, with the objective of placing a surveillance drone with every squad of nine soldiers. With a view to affordability, the military is keeping an open mind as to what can already be bought off the shelf in the prosumer market.
UPDATE: Not to be pipped, the Israeli military are apparently planning to use drones as flying grenades. Named the Rotem, a Hebrew acronym for ‘attack and suicide drone’, the unit will be a 4.5kg unit suitable to be carried in a back pack. Of course, ‘quadcopter guided missile’ might have been a less colourful description of the same innovation.