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For the first time, a US infantry Army battalion will employ pocket-sized drones at the squad level on their upcoming Afghanistan deployment. Troops with the US 82nd Airborne Division were issued Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System this spring and provided training on how to use these unmanned aerial vehicles. The hand-held devices are expected to become standard kit for units across the Army, providing near-real time video that will allow soldiers to better survey their surroundings and detect enemies in combat.
The 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, is planning to employ the machines next month in Afghanistan, while other elements of the brigade wait to see how best to leverage the system, a brigade spokesman told stripes.com.
The Army initially bought Black Hornets, made by FLIR Systems, for testing with Special Forces units in 2016. The devices are extremely light, nearly silent and have a flight time of up to 25 minutes, the company’s website said.
The drone, which weighs less than two ounces, can be deployed in less than one minute and has a range of over a mile. It’s intended to eliminate battlefield blind spots with the aim of saving troop’s lives and avoiding unintentional damage or deaths, according to a company official. Teaching a soldier to fly it takes two minutes. Training an instructor takes less than three days.
Wireless commands and data sent between the drone and its controller are encrypted to protect it against hacking, the Army said in May.
The basic configuration of a Black Hornet system includes one drone for day and one for night, a base station that connects to a handheld controller, and a display about the size of a tablet computer, but it varies from customer to customer, said FLIR spokesman Joe Ailinger Jr. “The configuration is flexible and can be customized as needed,” he said.