U.S. Army Orders of the Pocket-Sized Drones Top $ 85 Million
Nano drones have become a major military tool over the past few years, and the most recent announcement of FLIR Systems being awarded an additional $20.6 million contract for their Black Hornet 3 Personal Reconnaissance Systems (PRS) by the U.S. Army is one big example of that.
While the contract is huge, the FLIR Systems Black Hornet 3 is only the size of a cellphone. This extremely light and nearly silent drone can fly up to 25 minutes, and provide many military advantages in combat.
With this second contract, FLIR Systems will be providing the service with additional miniature reconnaissance drones as part of the ongoing soldier-borne sensor program, National Defense reports.
The relationship between FLIR Systems and the U.S. Army began in late 2018. Then, later on in January 2019, FLIR Systems was awarded a hefty $39.7 million contract with the service to supply the Black Hornet 3s. Those systems are currently being delivered for fielding.
Recently, in May 2021, FLIR won an additional $15.4 million contract to deliver even more drones to the U.S. Army.
In total, the U.S. Army has paid over $85 million dollars and the company delivered more than 12,000 units of the nano-UAV (it's unclear exactly how many was delivered to the U.S.).
Light, robust, nearly silent
Roger Wells, the company's VP and General Manager for Unmanned Systems and Integrated Solutions, stated in June 2020, "It’s extremely light, it’s very robust, nearly silent with flight times up to 25 minutes, which provides an organic surveillance reconnaissance capability."
Providing real-time video feeds and images
The drone will assist the soldiers by providing real-time video feeds and images of operating environments. Moreover, its sensor can transmit live video and high-definition images back to an operator across a secure data link.
Wells said, "The system’s performance capabilities with its integrated sensors are providing soldiers with immediate situational awareness that’s tactically relevant. This allows them to provide [intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance] while still remaining in a covert position."
Weighs only 33 grams
The drone weighs 33 grams or so (1.16 oz) which makes it pretty easy to use in combat. Wells stated, "It’s almost pocket portable as opposed to rucksack portable and [it] really doesn’t add a load burden to the soldiers and servicemen and women that are out there using it."
Deliveries will happen later this year
FLIR Systems was reportedly set to begin the deliveries of the new contract mid-2021; although, there's no mention of how many units are set to be delivered at the U.S. Army. As previously mentioned, there are about 12,000 thousand units delivered to defense and security forces worldwide.
"We anticipate this to be a multi-year program where capability is being provided to the Army through … multiple tranches."
In July 2020, Syrian troops shared images of a captured Black Hornet 3, it wasn't clear who was in control of the drone prior to its capture.