Apparently the United States isn’t the only Western country pouring money into futuristic drone technology as it is now being reported that British soldiers are using tiny drones for surveillance in Afghanistan and have been since 2012.
The drones being used by the UK are absolutely tiny at a mere 4 inches by one inch, weighing around half an ounce with up to 30 minutes of flight time and a top speed of 22 miles per hour, according to the BBC.
Some might say that this technology is somewhat basic compared to advances like drone-borne EMP missiles, drone-based facial recognition technology, perpetual flight, automated tracking technology, cameras capable of capturing over 30 square miles in a single shot and more.
The helicopter-like drone, called “Black Hornet Nano,” was developed in Norway and is equipped with a small camera capable of sending video and still images to a handheld remote control device.
The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) is apparently a fan of the device, saying that it can fly around obstacles and corners and can identify unnamed potential hidden dangers.
The MoD also said that the drone can be easily carried by soldiers on patrol and is capable of flying in harsh, windy conditions.
According to an unnamed MoD spokeswoman cited by the BBC, the Black Hornet Nano has been used since 2012.
The drones are the result of a £20 million (about $31.51 million) contract with Marlborough Communications out of Surrey, England to supply and maintain 160 Black Hornets.
However, the drones were originally developed for Prox Dynamics, a company out of Norway that dubs itself “The Specialist in Micro Air Vehicles.”
Indeed, the Prox Dynamics homepage shows a drone that appears so petite it almost makes the Black Hornet look large.
On top of the drone on the homepage placed next to a coin for a size comparison, previously developed Prox Dynamics products include two award winning 1 gram ornithopters.
On top of the miniature drones capable of being directly piloted or flying autonomously along programmed GPS coordinates, the UK operates 300 larger drones in Afghanistan, according to the BBC.
In addition, according to a Sky News article from October 2012, the UK’s armed drone fleet in Afghanistan is going to double.
“We used [the Black Hornet] to look for insurgent firing points and check out exposed areas of the ground before crossing, which is a real asset,” said Sgt Christopher Petherbridge of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force in Afghanistan.
“Black Hornet is definitely adding value, especially considering the light weight nature of it,” Petherbridge told Sky News.
“It is very easy to operate and offers amazing capability to the guys on the ground,” Petherbridge said.
The praise coming from the MoD and Petherbridge make the stories from Sky and the BBC read much like promotional press releases for the tiny drones.
Regardless, drones are clearly becoming an increasingly integral aspect of the UK’s arsenal.
According to Defense Minister Philip Dunne, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems will be a “key component” of the MoD’s investment over the coming decade.
“Black Hornet gives our troops the benefits of surveillance in the palm of their hands. It is extremely light and portable whilst out on patrol,” Dunne said, according to Sky.
“[N]ow that we have balanced the defence budget we are able to confidently invest in these kinds of cutting-edge technologies,” Dunne said.
“Spending outlined last month also includes almost £36bn for a new generation of nuclear-powered submarines, almost £19bn for combat aircraft, and around £17bn for Royal Navy warships,” according to the BBC.
dailyalternative | alternative news – Half-ounce surveillance drones have been used by British soldiers