One pocket-sized device is slowly changing the way militaries across the world wage war against their enemies.
The Black Hornet nano drone weighs just 32g and is 16.8cm long, making it one of the smallest systems of its kind.
It is extremely quiet and can zip through tight alleyways and navigate buildings, allowing it to go almost unnoticed as it gathers vital information.
With a range of 2km and speeds of over 21km/h, the drone can survey an area and send real-time high-definition (HD) footage back to its controller.
The creator of the drone, FLIR Systems, claims it provides “modern war fighters with an easy to carry, truly pocket-sized solution they can deploy anywhere day or night for immediate covert situational awareness”.
The tiny drone is so small and quiet it can fly around almost unnoticed. Picture: Zak SimmondsSource:News Corp Australia
Use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) was rolled out by Australian Army soldiers in Brisbane last year.
The Australian Army has been keeping up with how UAS like the Black Hornet drone are changing the way militaries operate.
It is one of the biggest users of Nano UAS in the world, according to Commander of the 6th Brigade, Brigadier Susan Coyle.
“(The Australian Army) is the first in the world to proliferate this technology to the conventional forces down to combat platoon level,” she said last year.
“Experience of UAS operations overseas and in Australia have provided the army with unique expertise that is in high demand.”
Brig. Coyle described the Black Hornet as a “game-changer” for how the army.
“UAS are a game-changer for the army, providing enhanced situational awareness for better mission execution for Australian soldiers,” she said.
“The issue of the Black Hornet Nano UAS to our soldiers is an exciting example of adopting tactical robotic technology.”
In May this year, the Australian Army called for another small UAS to be added to its current forces.
The drone gives soldiers extra protection by scoping out the area for potential threats. Picture: Glenn RobertsSource:Supplied
Along with the Black Hornet, they also operate the larger Shadow 200 drone, which allows troops to monitor a much larger area.
It carries a series of HD cameras and laser systems to provide detailed intelligence about enemy activity.
“An infantry platoon has the ability to influence one or two kilometres, so they get a two-kilometre Black Hornet. A brigade has an AO (area of operations) of 150 by 150 kilometres, which is why they get a Shadow,” army UAS program manager Lieutenant Colonel Keirin Joyce told Australian Defence Magazine.
“The spot where we have a gap in developing this layered approach to organic ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) is at the battle-group level (500-800 soldiers).”
The army is looking to fill this 30km range gap by introducing a new drone that fits somewhere in the middle of the Black Hornet and Shadow.
And its not just Australia that is using this spy-like technology to its military advantage.
The US Army has recently deployed the Black Hornet drones for the first time with the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, with plans to supply one in 10 personnel with the spy device.
The device is controlled by an operator and sends back high-definition footage of the area. Picture: Wesley MontsSource:News Corp Australia
The British Army was an early adopter of the drone, using an earlier version in Afghanistan in 2011.
It has recently spent almost 1.4 million pounds ($A2.5 million) on ordering the newest version of the Black Hornet, which now comes with night vision and GPS for improved reconnaissance.
It can also send the information via an encrypted link.
France, Germany, India, Norway and the Netherlands are also using the Black Hornet in their military forces.
Ole Aguirre from FLIR Systems told The Times the drone identified any threats and thereby provided extra protection to soldiers before they went sent into a potentially dangerous area or building.
“Before you enter by foot or by vehicle patrol you want to send these in front of you,” he told the publication.
“You can get this into a street, fly it close to the ground, go up staircases and onto the roof, all while you are not putting your head out there.”
Soldiers are using the drone to peer around corners or over walls and other obstacles to identify any hidden dangers. Photo: Richard Watt/MODSource:Supplied
An operator can be trained to use the drone in as little as 20 minutes, though full training can take a few days.
The drones can either be manually controlled by the operator using a touchscreen display or set to follow a predetermined route.
They also use artificial intelligence to build a picture of obstacles, like trees or buildings, and decide whether they should fly around them.
Sergeant Ryan Subers, one of the personnel who has been trained to operate the drone, described the technology as a “lifesaver”.
“I was really impressed with the system, its capabilities and what it offers soldiers in terms of risk reduction,” Sgt Subers said in a press release.
“This kind of technology will be a lifesaver for us because it takes us out of harm’s way while enhancing our ability to execute whatever combat mission we’re on.
“I’m very grateful for technology like this and to be a part of the first unit to use it.”