US Army Buys 9,000 Tiny 'Black Hornet' Drones Ahead Of Afghanistan Deployment

The US Army will deploy soldiers to Afghanistan with a new handheld drone it claims will dramatically reduce dead space on the battlefield.

The 1.16-ounce Black Hornet drone, developed by Prox Dynamics of Norway and later acquired by US-based FLIR Systems, is designed for local surveillance missions over the modern battlefield. The tiny drone has high-tech sensors that allow it to operate in day or night and has a flight time of approximately 25 minutes. Here's a FLIR Systems promotional video of the Black Hornet:

According to Breaking Defense, the Army is procuring 9,000 systems over the next three years.

According to the service, each Black Hornet kit includes "the ground control system, which is composed of a base station with hand controller and display unit, and two air Vehicles (one day and one night). The display acts as the main hub for Soldiers to interact with the system, while the air vehicles are small, highly maneuverable airborne sensors with low visual and audio signatures that support pre-planned and on-the-fly reconnaissance missions."

The drones were purchased under a $40 million contract in 1Q19 between the Army and FLIR Systems.

Paratroopers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, will be using Black Hornets during their next deployment to Afghanistan, slated for later this summer.

The Black Hornet, for the first time, will allow a squad leader to scout ahead by air before exposing soldiers on the ground.

"It is the start of an era where every squad will have vision beyond their line of sight," Nathan Heslink, Assistant Program Manager PEO Soldier, said in an Army press release.

Drones, automation, artificial intelligence, hypersonics, and fifth-generation warplanes have been a modernization effort spurred in part by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The Army has also been working on a next-generation assault rifle, high-tech targeting goggles, and robots.