Drones have become a valuable asset for any military force in recent years for both combat and surveillance. But while scanning a warzone from miles away is great from a tactical standpoint, unmanned aircraft can be just as useful in the hands of troops on the ground. That’s why British soldiers in Afghanistan have been issued several Black Hornet Nanos, a palm-sized UAV that can scout around corners and obstacles for hidden dangers. Each UAV measures just 4 x 1 inches (10 x 2.5cm) and weighs a mere 0.6 ounces (16 grams), making it easy for troops to carry along with the rest of their gear. A built-in camera transmits live video and still images to a handheld control unit at a range of up to half a mile (800 meters).
The drones can fly around corners and obstacles to identify potential hidden dangers, the Ministry of Defence said. The Norwegian-designed Black Hornet Nano features a tiny camera and relays video and still images to a handheld control terminal. It measures about 10cm by 2.5cm (4in by 1in) and weighs 16g (0.6oz).
The MoD, which also operates more than 300 larger-sized unmanned air vehicles in Afghanistan, said the Black Hornet is carried easily on patrol and works in harsh environments and windy conditions. They have been in use in Afghanistan since 2012, a spokeswoman confirmed.
Surrey-based Marlborough Communications has a £20m contract with the military to supply and maintain 160 of the drones, which were originally developed by Prox Dynamics for search and rescue operations. Mini drones can be piloted directly or programmed to follow co-ordinates using GPS. Powered by battery, the Black Hornet is reported to have a range of about half a mile (800m), a top speed of 22mph (35kph) and can fly for up to 30 minutes.
They can help soldiers on the ground pinpoint hidden Taliban fighters and explosives. Sgt Christopher Petherbridge, of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force in Afghanistan, said: “We used it to look for insurgent firing points and check out exposed areas of the ground before crossing, which is a real asset. “It is very easy to operate and offers amazing capability to the guys on the ground.”