Sgt. Scott Weaver of The Queens Royal Lancers launches a Black Hornet Nano Unmanned Air Vehicle from a compound in Afghanistan. The UAV measures around 4 inches by 1 inch and provides troops on the ground with situational awareness. (Sgt. Rupert Frere RLC / Ministry of Defence)
LONDON — Britain has revealed pictures of a tiny surveillance helicopter — it weighs just 16 grams — that has been in service with troops in Afghanistan since last year.
The Ministry of Defence said it believes the Norwegian-developed Black Hornet unmanned aerial vehicle is the first nano-sized surveillance system to be put into service anywhere in the world.
Equipped with a tiny steerable camera capable of giving troops full motion video and still images, the Black Hornet measures around 4 inches (10 cm) by 1 inch (2.5 cm). Data is transmitted to a handheld terminal not much bigger than a phone.
Norwegian developer Prox Dynamics supplied the UAV as part of a 20-million-pound deal for 160 units secured by local British company Marlborough Communications.
The battery-powered vehicle has endurance of about 30 minutes and a range of around a half mile.
The Ministry of Defence said in a statement that despite it light weight and size, the nano UAV was capable of working in harsh environments and windy conditions.
Deliveries have been completed on a deal that includes equipment, training and spares.
British soldiers are using the nano to peer around corners and over walls and other obstacles to view potential targets.
“We used it to look for insurgent firing points and to check out exposed areas of ground before crossing, which is a real asset. It is very easy to operate and offers amazing capability,” said Sgt Chris Petherbridge of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force in Afghanistan.