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The Military United Kingdom News

Handheld Black Hornet Nano Drones Issued To UK Soldiers 97

cylonlover writes "Drones have become a valuable asset for any military force in recent years for both combat and surveillance. But while scanning a warzone from miles away is great from a tactical standpoint, unmanned aircraft can be just as useful in the hands of troops on the ground. That's why British soldiers in Afghanistan have been issued several Black Hornet Nanos, a palm-sized UAV that can scout around corners and obstacles for hidden dangers. Each UAV measures just 4 x 1 inches (10 x 2.5cm) and weighs a mere 0.6 ounces (16 grams), making it easy for troops to carry along with the rest of their gear. A built-in camera transmits live video and still images to a handheld control unit at a range of up to half a mile (800 meters)."
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Handheld Black Hornet Nano Drones Issued To UK Soldiers

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    At £125.000 ($200.000) each they are a steal. :-)

    • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @04:24AM (#42829893) Journal
      Relative to the cost of a soldier [] this seems reasonable, assuming British soldiers have a similar cost.
      • That's not the point. The point is that my local toy store sells something very similar for £16.

        • by oobayly ( 1056050 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @06:27AM (#42830367)

          What, you mean one of the polystyrene upy-downy lefty-righty helicopters that are barely controllable indoors and where the blades fall off if you land slightly badly. I had one of those, it was a bit of a laugh but it was lacking the following features:

          1) A copter which uses a secure (DDL) network, capable of transmitting over 800 meters
          2) GPS navigation
          3) High quality, stabilized, pan-tilt, and mechanically zoomed video
          4) 30 minutes battery
          5) Carbon-fiber propellers
          6) Super-quiet operation
          7) Waterproof
          8) Hover and stare, preprogrammed search routes
          9) Base Station
                  Mission Planning, Execution and Analyses
                  Display connections, Functions and System Controls
                  Storage of Mission Data including Video and Images
                  Connections to PC, Network and other Peripherals
                  UAVs housed inside for Protection and Support

          List stolen from Phyvel Lavine's comment under TFA

          • by bluescrn ( 2120492 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @06:41AM (#42830423)
            Take a look at the Walkera Ladybird (~£100) or Hubsan X4 (~£50). These little quadcopters are surprisingly good for toys. Things have moved on from those crap polystyrene 2-channel IR-controlled helis

            Add a cheap camera system, and you could still have hundreds of them for the price of one mil-spec system. Although the military version does look very impressive, it's probably overkill for looking around corners/over obstacles :)
            • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )


              This thing is aimed for certain missions. Missions like catching unaware enemy in the house by mapping their house and defenses from inside with something they are unlikely to even notice.

              You noisy big toy will tell everyone with a gun that there's an attack coming. Oops. You saved a few k on costs of your recon drone and you lost a squad to alert enemy ambushing you.

              But it was cheap.

              That is the reason why military hardware is generally more expensive. It has extremely stringent requirements, and

              • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

                And they are willing to pay those prices. Military equipment is often just overpriced, because it can be. Go ask some folks in the Military they will tell you.

            • by Stalks ( 802193 ) *
              You perked my interested with a £50 helicopter. My son has wanted one for eons but any worth their salt seemed to be far too expensive.

              Then I read this on the Hubsan website:

              "Keep it away from children. Carefully read the instructions before any use. If you are beginner, it's advisable to be assisted by an experienced helicopter pilot."

              Anything for a beginner without training?

              • by TheLink ( 130905 )

                I had one like this: []

                Worth the money- more stable than the earlier ones. It's not that fragile BUT it will still break if you crash it too hard. The plastic ones are lighter and may perform better than the metal ones.

                What I suggest you do is get your son started on one of those cheap mini remote control _cars_ first e.g. []
                Once he can master 2D, then only let him try 3D. Otherwise it'll just be frustrating for both you and h

              • If you're even vaguely competent at videogames, and comfortable with a dual-stick game controller, you can learn to fly these micro-quads easily enough.

                Just don't fly too high/fast to begin with, and start by just practicing 'tail in' hovering (keeping it facing away from you). If you start to lose control, just kill the throttle and let it drop to the ground - they're so small and light that they'll be unharmed by most falls onto carpet or grass.

                As for safety, unlike larger RC helis/quads, these litt
          • You can get most of that on a top-end $100 civilian model, available in most toy shops.

            Add $50 for a miniature GPS receiver and a few hundred for a super high tech 30-minute battery. The rest is mostly software.

            Help me out here, I'm having trouble figuring out where all the millions went.

            • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @10:14AM (#42831569) Journal
              Show me a 16g heli with 30 minute flight time, stable in high winds, camera that _transmits_ live video (think battery life again), and can follow GPS coordinates (think yet more battery life).

              Provide a link to one that's less than $1000. Otherwise you can figure out where all the millions went.

              I've seen interesting civilian/toy helis: e.g.

              But none have specs anything as impressive as _claimed_ in the article. It does make me wonder whether the claims are all true. If it's true it's pretty impressive tech. In fact it actually is not far from some of those Sci-Fi stuff.

              I've got toy helis, and without all those specs, they are toys.
              8 minute flight time
              requires pilot intervention in high winds.
              no GPS
              adding live hi-res video = even shorter flight time.
              Not water proof (my guess is the drone is waterproof or it'll be a major oops ;) ).
              • I was instantly suspicious as well. The item in the photo looks like a bad mockup, like that Iranian jet.

                - It has one rotor, and a tail rotor. A coaxial unit would be easier to fly. Flying fixed-pitch or collective pitch model helis is hard to learn! OK, maybe it has an amazing autopilot and stability control. Or maybe operators just have to put in the time to build skill.

                - The rotor disc looks pretty small, out of proportion to other models I am familiar with. Proves nothing and I am not a helicopter desig

                • by Elijha ( 2805781 )
                  Fuel Cell? would make it quick to "recharge" in the field too?
                  • A fuel cell would definitely make for a quick recharge. I don't know beans about state-of-the-art fuel cell technology but I still suspect that the fuel cell itself would be too heavy for the stated specs.

                    However, the energy density of a typical fuel cell consumable, like methanol, IS a lot higher than a lithium battery.


                    Then again, this source states that the efficiency of such a fuel cell is also quite low.

                    So, maybe. Good idea though, I did not think of

          • by kenh ( 9056 )

            2) GPS navigation

            Please explain to me how they fitted a GPS receiver chip and antenna array in a 16 gram drone, along with a video camera, transmitter, and power source for all the above.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by toopok4k3 ( 809683 )
              Think of any new smartphone, but without all the plastics around it and that huge screen.
          • by TheLink ( 130905 )

            The specs are so amazing I do wonder if they are true.
            All that and only 16g. Not easy to even get a high quality video camera+transmitter that weighs much less than 16g.

            Of course for some perspective, you can compare the specs with a dragonfly or hummingbird to see there's still much progress to be made in some areas ;)

            weight about 1-3grams
            fully autonomous
            self refuelling, self manufacturing.
            maximum speed about 30+kph.
            nonstop flight - more than long enough for me:

        • by TheLink ( 130905 )
          Right. And it probably sells something very similar to an AK-47 too.

          The difference is that one is a toy and one is far more useful in a battlefield.
    • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @04:38AM (#42829959)

      This just in: short production runs of 160 pieces have an expensive per-piece cost.

      Tooling and R&D aren't free, buddy.


      • by Anonymous Coward

        Weeeell... the prototypes were made during lunch breaks and partly from styrofoam coffe cups taken from the cantina in a location close to Oslo, Norway. Of course that's not what's being sold, what's being sold is a rugged and thoroughly tested ability.

        If you think the production run was limited to 160 you are as we say over here "ett fjols" ;)

        I'll even throw in a source in Norwegian from last May (use Google translate or some such), enable for loading the pictures/slide show: []

        • More than likely a significant part of that cost was paying tool&die makers to tool up, as the poster above mentioned. Four-slide and stamping prototyping is especially expensive. Like for a stamping press die: to put out a part with just a few bends and with VERY basic sensing (thru-beam sensor to check for part-ejection, a progression sensor (hysteretical proximity sensor) and 2 prox sensors) you're looking at ~$13k minimum. Plus the cost of a cad designer (not including the cost of a solidworks+logop
      • by magpie ( 3270 )

        This just in: short production runs of 160 pieces have an expensive per-piece cost.

        Paying off our establishment mates aren't free, buddy.

        -- BMO


      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Joce640k ( 829181 )

        If only there was a civilian product they could have used as a starting point for development. Oh, wait..

    • by AlecC ( 512609 )

      That is the gross for a ten year contract, with support and repairs.

  • That seems like a good deal.
  • Drone strike.....

  • Yeah, they cost 200k for the first few. But that is to cover development. The actual price of these things should fall dramatically over the next year or so as they get rolled out. If this is the same tiny drone I've seen pictures of in the news lately, they look like something you'd find being flown around the mall by some guy selling them at a kiosk, albeit with quite a bit more technology in the camera and remote control.

  • Those are some very small palms.

  • by rts008 ( 812749 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @05:43AM (#42830209) Journal

    One thing is for certain, soldiers will have plans formed in much less than the first hour after the drones are issued to them..."We need drone style, real-time visual recon of the nearest women's shower. ASAP!"

    Troops will be troops, it has been so for thousands of years: Live to get laid, have the next drink, and collecting some coin.

    • +1 insightful.

      These toys will be worn out/broken long before they ever reach the battlefield.

      • by AlecC ( 512609 )

        The Chieftain tank has, as probably most other tanks do, sophisticated stabilising system so that the gun stays dead level while the tank hull bucks across the countryside. They found out that the servo systems which do this were wearing out much sooner than inspected. Inquiries found that the gunner was turning the system on all the time so that it stopped spilling his tea, which he put on top of the gun breech. They solved the problem by putting a domed cover on the breech.

  • How about one of these []?

  • If the UK government is going to bulk buy for a better cost then there are probably other parts under the government umbrella that are going to get some. Like M16. Like the police. Could be useful to buzz in for some pictures of faces in a crowd.

  • Step Two (Score:4, Interesting)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Friday February 08, 2013 @08:10AM (#42830765)
    How much C4 do you need one of these things to carry before it becomes a nice way to take out the target after it finds one?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      How much C4 do you need one of these things to carry before it becomes a nice way to take out the target after it finds one?

      A drone can carry small amounts of chemical or biological warfare agents. Sometimes a small amount is all it takes.

      A drone can also light up a specific target using an IR laser. The real damage will be done by a guided missile.

    • by modi123 ( 750470 )

      Naw - step two is making the tracking bullet from Tom Selleck's classic 1984 movie: Runaway [].

      Image [] []

      Step three will be the spiders!

    • by uutf ( 2432816 )
      For single target kills they could just use a small blowdart powered by a compressed gas canister.
  • The concept of portable drones a soldier can deploy in the field reminds me a bit of manhacks (those spinny-blade enemies in Half-Life 2).

    Not that anyone remembers such an old game like Half-Life 2. Heck I think even Valve's forgotten about the series... /cry

  • How hard would it have been to make some of them green? If I were in Afghanistan again, I'd want a Green Hornet.
  • If they're going to call it a Black Hornet why not make it black?
  • Sure, the UAV "drone" only weighs 16 grams, but what about the weight of:

    a) The protective box that carries it
    b) The recharging/refueling mechanisim
    c) The receiver
    d) The display

    What does it weigh in hand grenades? Ammo clips? etc.

  • It is very hard to learn to fly a helicopter or quadrocopter well. A lot of flying hours are needed. Really a lot. It is about becoming a pilot.

    Nothing even remotely similar exists on the ground; - roll, pitch, yaw. Watching fuel constantly (it is never a flight, in the sense of a free flight, it is always a jump which is to be thought over and planned). Let alone wind, rain, wires, trees, birds, etc.

    It will take years to get comfortable with this technology. The brain, the whole nervous system must adj

  • ... is a mini-Hellfire missile to attach to it, and voila! The next generation of battlefield weaponry is born.

Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat. -- Christopher Morley