Although this tiny helicopter has a rotor diameter of 4.8 inches and weighs in at just under 1.6 ounces, it’s no toy: both the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps are fielding Flir’s “Black Hornet,” also known by its military designation as “PD-100.” The unit has swappable batteries and can handle light rain and winds gusting over 20mph. With 640x480 video and 1600x1200 stills, the camera resolution does not rival anything cinematic, but it does have thermal-imaging capabilities, and it can fly for 25 minutes with a range of 1.24 miles.
Alton Stewart is the public affairs officer for Program Executive Officer Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, the heart of the Army’s fielding program for the new technology. He tells us that the purpose of the drone is not high-quality resolution. “The Soldier Borne Sensor provides ‘quick look’ capability from a covered and concealed position to improved situational awareness.” In other words, the drone provides a battlefield view that would not be available without putting a soldier in harm’s way. The aircraft can fly with or without GPS, so it can go inside buildings, caves, or tunnels.
Stewart says that the Army looked at a number of different units before selecting Flir’s drone. “The Army conducted a flyoff in 2018. The fly-off included controlled design tests as well as simulated missions conducted by soldiers. The results of the