Published On: Sun, Aug 28th, 2022

Black Hornet Drone: Why 32-gram Pocket Nano-UAV Matters on the Battlefield?

Weighing just 32 grams, PD-100 Black Hornet could be the smallest fully-functional military-grade drone that easily fits in a pocket. And now, it is coming to Ukraine to aid on the frontlines. What can be done with an unmanned flyer this small on a real battlefield?

A Black Hornet microdrone. Image credit: Teledyne FLIR

A Black Hornet microdrone. Image credit: Teledyne FLIR

Recently Norway and Great Britain have announced they will supply the Armed Forces of Ukraine with the PD-100 Black Hornet microdrone produced by Teledyne FLIR company. The main strength of this UAV comes from its size – even the manufacturer has designated this product as a personal reconnaissance system (PRS) that can be used by any non-specialist soldier to provide immediate information about the surroundings during military operations.

PD-100 Black Hornet is not a weapons carrier, so it will not be able to directly neutralize enemy units. It also cannot fly extremely long distances of tens of kilometers. But weighing just 32 grams, it can fit in any pocket. In such a limited volume, the manufacturer managed to cram an impressive selection of advanced technology.

A Black Hornet microdrone. Image credit: Teledyne FLIR

A Black Hornet microdrone. Image credit: Teledyne FLIR

Interestingly, previous versions of Black Hornet UAVs were even lighter, at 16 grams per single machine. The latest modification of this product has been introduced in June 2018 and doubled the weight but also now includes a lot of improved features such as better range and top speed, and also the ability to fly in environments with no GPS.

Thanks to its low weight, this microdrone does not need lots of rotor power to stay airborne. This is also the reason why PD-100 Black Hornet is nearly silent and stealthy. A flight time lasts up to 25 minutes with a maximum flight range of approximately 1.6 km. Drone typically flies at a height of 10-30 meters and can handle moderately-strong winds thanks to their aerodynamic shape. The top speed is approximately 10 m/s.

A Black Hornet microdrone. Image credit: Teledyne FLIR

A Black Hornet microdrone. Image credit: Teledyne FLIR

The drone has two modes of operation. It can either be operated directly by a human operator or can be programmed to follow a predefined path according to GPS coordinates. The GPS receiver is installed inside, too.

For soldiers who operate Black Hornet PRS, this platform provides a stream of live video and high-definition still images. There are two steerable optical cameras and even a thermal imager concealed within its nose, so the drone has night vision capability. 

The drone can be launched automatically from any stationary location or a specialized holder installed on vehicles. According to the manufacturer, the entire system required to operate PD-100 – including the unmanned aerial vehicle itself – can be fitted in a single pocket. But it is fair to say that the control panel needs a larger compartment, as can be seen from the image above. A 90% battery charge level can be reached in 20-25 minutes of charging.

For those who are still skeptical about the actual usability of this unmanned machine, we will note that Black Hornet Nano has been tested and is used by the armed forces of the majority of NATO-allied countries, including the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, just to mention a few. 

The only serious disadvantage of PD-100 Black Hornet is related to their cost. A set consisting of two drones, a control panel, and a charging station comes at 40-60 thousand U.S. dollars. According to earlier announcements, the aid package officially announced by the Norwegian government is expected to contain about 150-240 sets of Black Hornet microdrones. A part of this financial aid will also go to related services, such as training.

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