Editor’s Note: About five years ago, DARPA commissioned a program to develop a very small drone. AeroVironment’s “Nano Hummingbird” which looks a lot like its namesake, can actually hover in winds up to 5 mph, has a wingspan of six inches, and weighs in at less than one ounce. The endurance is a bit less than ten minutes. According to an RFP released by the Army, the Nano Hummingbird ought to be a strong contender for the contract.

The U.S. Army wants a new drone. And not a bigger drone — but smaller.

Thousands of drones are already in service throughout the Army, from medium-altitude, long-endurance warbots such as General Atomics’ Grey Eagle, to shorter-range tactical UAVs like Textron’s Shadow — and all the way down to platoon-level platforms such as AeroVironment’s RQ-11B Raven — too small to carry a missile, but still the most widely used drone in the world.

And that’s fine so far as it goes. But what if you’re a soldier caught in a tight spot, maybe all alone and lost in the streets of Mogadishu, and want to know what awaits you farther down the block?

That’s one small hole in military drone coverage that the Army would like to plug.

Earlier this month, the Army’s Program Executive Office-Soldier issued the new RFP to plug that gap, seeking ideas from corporate America on how to outfit individual soldiers with small, personal-use drones dubbed “Soldier Borne Sensors.” According to the RFP, the Army is looking for an all-inclusive drone system that does the following:

  • Fits “all necessary hardware, software, radio equipment, batteries” into a single “tactical carrying pouch.”
  • Features a drone weighing less than 6 ounces.
  • Weighs less than 3 pounds, including all equipment.
  • Can see in the dark as well as the daytime and transmit video and telemetry data back to its user “in near real time.”
  • Can fly in the rain and endure wind gusts up to 17 mph.
  • Has an operating range out to half a kilometer and the ability to fly 15 minutes before recharging.

The original article can be viewed in its entirety right here.

(Featured photo courtesy of pbs.org)