The US Army will soon be equipping some units in the field with tiny personal drones, reports Stars & Stripes. The 1st Battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment will begin using the devices next month in Afghanistan as the military works to figure out the best way to use them.
FLIR Systems has been testing the Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System with a variety of units — the US Army began testing the drone back in 2016 and 2017, and the company picked up a trio of big contracts with the American, British, and French militaries this year. At the end of April, the 82nd Airborne’s 3rd Combat Brigade began training with the drones, playing out a variety of scenarios in which the devices could be used. According to Army Technology, the drones are designed to “assist dismounted soldiers deployed on the battlefield,” essentially allowing them to scout out nearby terrain and look for enemy soldiers that they might not be able to see otherwise. The company also recently launched a larger version for use for vehicles, like tanks.
The drones are tiny — just over six inches long, and weigh 33 grams, making it easy for soldiers to carry them while in the field. Each drone carries a pair of cameras and a thermal imaging cameras, and can send live video and still images back to their operators. They can also fly on their own, have a range of 2 kilometers, and can fly for just under a half hour. The Army expects that the devices will eventually become a standard piece of equipment for its soldiers.
The battalion in Afghanistan will be working to figure out how to “best leverage the system,” according to a brigade spokesman. Soldiers who used the device appear to have been impressed with its capabilities: Sgt. Ryan Subers noted that “this kind of technology will be a life-saver for us because it takes us out of harm’s way while enhancing our ability to execute whatever combat mission we’re on.”