The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence awarded two contracts worth nearly $36 million for two small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to bring them into the military’s core equipment program, the ministry said Thursday.

The UAS are Marlborough Communications Limited’s Black Hornet and Lockheed Martin’s [LMT] Desert Hawk 3.

The Marlborough Communications Limited Black Hornet "nano" unmanned aerial system. Photo: Marlborough Communications Limited.
The Marlborough Communications Limited Black Hornet “nano” unmanned aerial system. Photo: Marlborough Communications Limited.

The Black Hornet is palm-sized and provides real-time video and snapshot images. According to the company’s product website it weighs 1.3 kg, has an endurance of over 20 minutes, can tolerate winds of over 10 knots, and has a range upwards of 1 km.

Desert Hawk 3 is a battery-powered hand-launched small UAS designed for portability, ruggedness, rapid employment, and reliability, Lockheed Martin said in a statement. The UAS weighs 8 pounds and can fly up to 90 minutes with a 2-pound payload, according to a product brochure.

The U.K.’s Desert Hawk 3 was recently upgraded to a digital data link, achieving the Ministry of Defense Full Operational Capability on schedule.

“Black Hornet and Desert Hawk proved their worth in Afghanistan, providing essential intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to our troops. The introduction of Black Hornet was a significant milestone in the development of our unmanned aerial systems as we were the first nation to use a rapidly deployable ‘nano’ UAS solution for our Armed Forces,” Defence Minister Philip Dunne said in a statement.

“Unmanned and remotely-piloted air systems are increasingly important in today’s operational environment and our protected Defense budget and £160 billion equipment plan has allowed us to bring both Black Hornet and Desert Hawk into our core program,” Dunne added.

“Desert Hawk has served the U.K. military well in providing intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance to tactical warfighters. We look forward to continuing this record of success through the award of the Desert Hawk Core Support Program, and we continue to enhance its capabilities based on user feedback. Desert Hawk’s maturity and proven performance, as well as the enhanced capabilities now available, make it a crucial asset on the modern battlefield,” Jay McConville, Lockheed Martin director of business development for unmanned solutions, said in a statement.

Artist's rendering of a Desert Hawk III. Image: Lockheed Martin.
Artist’s rendering of a Desert Hawk III.
Image: Lockheed Martin.

Desert Hawk 3 has flown over 30,000 hours to support mission needs including enhanced situational awareness, security and counter-IED operations, threat detection, route reconnaissance, and battle damage assessment, Lockheed Martin said.

The Ministry recently awarded Marlborough Communications Limited a contract extension to support Black Hornet through to its Out of Service Date in 2017. Lockheed Martin was also awarded a contract to support the Desert Hawk 3 program. Both achieved Full Operating Capability (FOC) last month.

Lockheed Martin also highlighted it recently upgraded the Desert Hawk 3 to a model 3.1 configuration by providing a simplified launch, deep stall landing, all-environment capability, longer endurance, updated sensor payloads, and operation using the Lockheed Martin mobile ground control system The 3.1 configuration is a modification kit to the standard Desert Hawk 3 configuration.