Development of unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), more commonly known as drones, is one of the fastest-growing and, yet, controversial sectors of aerospace, yet it is forecast that it could be worth as much as $62 billion a year to the global aerospace industry by 2020, creating hundred of thousands of jobs. The civilian drone market alone is possibly worth more than $400 billion according to a UK research project backed by the government and top aerospace companies.
With such market potential and possible uses for drones, much attention is currently being paid to the challenges of making them smaller, known as micro-air vehicles or MAVs, such as the tiny reconnaissance helicopters being used by the British Military (and also under review by the US Army) to the development of small drones, which mimic the flight action, and the maneuverability, of birds and insects.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing about the Small UAVs, such as the T-Hawk, Raven, Dragon Eye, Shadow, Scan Eagle, Silver Fox, Manta, Coyote, Hummingbird and Super Bat, but first let’s take a look at a very special small UAV which is being very effectively used in military operations and will soon be extended to search and rescue, police and fire-services and may other commercial applications.
In February last year the British army revealed its Black Hornet Nano Unmanned Air Vehicle developed by a small Norwegian company just outside Oslo, Prox Dynamics, headed by inventor Petter Muran. The Black Hornet Nano Unmanned Air Vehicle measures around 4 inches by 1 inch (10cm x 2.5cm) and weighs as little as 16 grams, it is equipped with up to 3 tiny camera’s which gives troops reliable full-motion video and still images, essential for reconnaissance and situational awareness. The system also has an advanced radio link and fully integrated GPS, as well an autopilot system.
It was developed as part of a GB £20 million ($32.8 million) contract for 160 units, or (GBP 125,000, US$ 205,000 each).
The UK Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Philip Dunne, has indicated:
Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems are a key component in our 10-year equipment plan. 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.
I’ve added a video of Petter Muran demonstrating and describing the incredible technology in the Black Hornet Nano at the end of this post, it is simply a fabulous device and I can imagine it will be used in many domains as the price comes down.
The system has proven very effective for the British Army and subsequently the US Army announced that they have contracted Prox Dynamics with a $2.5 million project to provide a modified version of the Black Hornet Nano.