Going into a war zone without knowing what’s ahead of you is like sky diving without a parachute; your chance of surviving is pretty slim and none in that exact order. Scouting the enemy was the traditional role of horse Cavalry until the early 20th Century and then aircraft and mechanized vehicles evolved into that role. Now, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are becoming the eyes of not only the army but also the small units that make up an army.  The problem is, these UAVs (or drones), like General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, are extremely large, and can be shot down like manned aircraft. And there just aren’t enough Reapers to assign one to every infantry platoon or squad moving on in a battlespace.

The Birth of the Black Hornet Spy Drone

Black Hornet Spy Drone. U.S. Army Soldier PFC Madaleyva, Xavier assigned to Alpha Company “Sapper” 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, conducts training on the Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS). The FLIR System’s Black Hornet 3 (BH3) allows soldiers to deploy the BH3 micro drone to directly ascertain situational awareness and gain and maintain contact with obstacles/danger areas where a soldier cannot physically reconnoiter. DVIDS photo

In late 2018, the US Army debated on equipping their infantry division with pocket-sized drones to help preserve the lives of the soldiers and minimize collateral damage on the battlefield. So they did.

With the help of Oregon-based FLIR Systems who developed the nano-drone, Black Hornet was born. It looks like a small helicopter that measures only 6.6 inches across and weighs around 33 grams— small enough to be held with one hand or kept on a utility belt. Don’t be deceived by its size, though, as it can fly at 21.48 km/hr for up to 25 minutes. This drone is also sturdy and can withstand temperatures between -10 to 43 degrees Celcius.

An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flight line at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, on Dec. 17, 2019. DVIDS photo

What’s a drone for if it does not provide surveillance? The Black Hornet transmits “live video and HD still images back to the operator,” according to FLIR’s website. It is also nearly silent. Plus, soldiers cannot only utilize it on the battlefield but also during rescue operations brought by disasters and calamities.