ROBOTICS AND AUTONOMOUS SYSTEMS
Army to Acquire New Nano Drones
FLIR Systems Inc. will supply the Army with its next-generation nano drone, the company recently announced.
A $2.6 million order has been made for the first shipment of the Black Hornet 3 as part of the Soldier Borne Sensor program.
The drone took seven years to develop, Ole Aguirre, FLIR director of unmanned aerial systems strategy and government affairs, said June 7 in an interview.
The system weighs only 32 grams, and can fly at speeds up to 21 kilometers per hour for up to 2 kilometers, he said.
Soldiers are “looking for a covert, safe and immediately available situational awareness tool” that they can carry easily and use at the squad level, Aguirre said. “It’s so small that the enemy probably won’t see it and you’ll see the enemy before they see you,” he added.
The nano drone was designed to meet customer requirements, which were informed by user feedback, he noted.
It can gather intelligence and provide surveillance in a variety of environments, such as over hills, around buildings, or in areas of dense smoke using a thermal micro camera. The equipment offers a way for troops to see what is in areas that may not be safely accessible, Aguirre said.
The first generation of the Black Hornet system was launched in 2011. The technology has evolved since then, he noted. The Black Hornet 3 will offer improved speed and range, and the ability to operate in GPS-denied environments, according to FLIR.
In addition to the U.S. Army, the Australian, French, Canadian and Norwegian militaries will also be equipped with the Black Hornet 3, Aguirre said. The Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, along with 30 other countries have used Black Hornet variants in the past, he added.
However, the system is not only for combat use, he noted. It can also be employed by first responders such as paramedics, police and firefighters. Using a thermal micro camera, the Black Hornet 3 is capable of locating bodies in smoke, as well as the origin of fires. It can also be used to detect people in difficult terrain, he said.
“We’ve seen some … fire fighters deploying these small unmanned helicopters immediately at arrival of the scene, and they are able find people in buildings or the surroundings [and] evacuate them immediately,” said Aguirre. Firefighters in Norway have already had success using FLIR cameras’ thermal capabilities, he noted.
The nano drone also has law enforcement applications, he said. “The whole idea when we started up this company is that we believed sometime in the future when the market is ready, and the people have adapted to the technology, each and every police car would have a tool like this,” Aguirre said.
The Black Hornet 3 will be demonstrated at the Eurosatory exhibition in Paris, June 11-15.