As I’ve written about previously, the future of drone warfare will see the adoption and proliferation of “micro” drones called Nanos, which can cooperate together in what the military is calling a SWARM ability. The advantage of using SWARMs of drones for the military is they can survey vast areas quickly, and cover areas that might be inaccessible to larger drones in the atmosphere, such as the Global Hawk or the Reaper drone.
Software is being developed to allow Nano drones to act autonomously and semi-autonomously, so that the role of the pilot becomes somebody who “points and clicks” – sending the drone on designated GPS coordinates.
In any case, British soldiers in Afghanistan have become the first to use Nano surveillance helicopters in a battlefield, and have done since 2012, the MOD has since confirmed.
The Norwegian “Black Hornet Nano” features a tiny camera and relays video and still images to a handheld control terminal, according to the BBC. The MOD plans to purchase 160 of the units. The MOD currently operate more than 300 UAVs in Afghanistan.
It measures about 10cm by 2.5cm (4in by 1in) and weighs 16g (0.6oz). Powered by battery, the Black Hornet is reported to have a range of about half a mile (800m), a top speed of 22mph (35kph) and can fly for up to 30 minutes.
Marlborough Communications has been awarded a £20m contract with the military to supply and maintain 160 of the drones, which were originally developed by Prox Dynamics in Norway.