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UAVs have been fulfilling a growing role in armed forces around the globe. Australia has been taking this technology one step forward. The Australian Army is rolling out two fleets of handheld drones to complement its larger, catapult-launched Shadow 200 unmanned vehicles.
When complete, they will deliver an unmanned capability for uses ranging from the combat platoon at the leading edge of the battlefield up to the brigade-headquarters level.
The latest of these technologies is the FLIR Systems Black Hornet Nano, which recently completed successful trials and is being rolled out across the entire conventional army in a $18 million “minor project’’.“We’re the first army in the world to do that and we’re very proud of that fact,” Lieutenant Colonel Keirin Joyce, the army’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capability manager. “We think the technology is so game-changing that we wanted it in all of our soldiers’ hands all of the time.” “When those rollouts are complete, the commander of every infantry company or armored squadron out in the field will have at their disposal a Wasp UAV, which can look out 5 km and stay airborne for 45 minutes,” Joyce says.
“And they will have a couple of Black Hornet systems they can push out to 2km for shorter-range reconnaissance tasks,” he says. “We’re Australia’s largest user of drones and we want to continue to embrace the game-changing effects of robotics.”
At brigade HQ level, the 100km-range Textron Systems Shadow 200 tactical UAV was initially acquired to support Australian Defence Force operations in Afghanistan and is now the subject of a replacement program, according to theaustralian.com.
The army is also spending $1m on a minor project to acquire 350 DJI Phantom 4 commercial off-the-shelf quadcopters, which are being issued to units outside the combat elements. Each unit will receive three or four Phantom systems.