The Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) is looking at Norway’s Prox Dynamics Black Hornet, a fit-in-your-hand aerial surveillance device for its Cargo Pocket Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance program (CP-ISR).

The CP-ISR program’s goal is to develop a mobile soldier sensor to increase the situational awareness of dismounted soldiers by providing real-time video surveillance of threat areas within their operational environment.


Black Hornet Photo: Prox Dynamics
Black Hornet
Photo: Prox Dynamics

NSRDEC engineers looked at existing commercial off-the-shelf technologies and identified a surrogate CP-ISR system, the Prox Dynamics PD-100 Black Hornet, the center said in a statement. The miniature helicopter weighs in at 16 grams and operates remotely with GPS navigation. Black Hornet has the ability to fly as long as 20 minutes while providing real-time video via a digital data link from one of the three embedded cameras. It’s tiny, electric propellers and motors make the device virtually undetectable to subjects under surveillance. And yes, it would fit in a cargo pocket.

The CP-ISR would provide an organic ISR asset to the squad level.

Larger systems have provided over-the-hill ISR capabilities on the battlefield, NSRDEC said, but none of them provide it directly to the squad where soldiers want to see around a corner or into a room, the center said.

The size, weight and image-gathering capabilities of the surrogate system are promising advancements that fulfill the burgeoning requirement for an organic squad-level ISR capability.

Ultimately, this capability will provide situational awareness, safety, and a decisive edge to Army’s most important resource, the individual soldier, NSRDEC said.

Three different areas of the technology are being developed, redesigning the digital data link to be compatible with Army standards, and developing and integrating advanced payloads for low-light imaging, allowing indoor and night operations. Also, researchers are working to improve the guidance, navigation and control algorithms for the CP-ISR surrogate system which will allow the airborne sensor to operate in confined and indoor spaces, such as when soldiers clear a building room by room.

In November, NSRDEC will collaborate with the Maneuver Center of Excellence, the Army Research Laboratory and other organizations in support of the Army Capabilities Integration Center’s Manned Unmanned Teaming (Ground) Limited Objective Experiment by demonstrating current capabilities of mobile soldier sensors.