WASHINGTON — Teledyne FLIR Defense is betting big on a drone so small it can fit in a soldier’s hand.
The company, part of Teledyne Technologies, rolled out the latest edition of the Black Hornet nano-drone this week at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference. The Black Hornet 4 is less than a foot long and weighs a fraction of a pound.
The successor to Black Hornet 3 can fly for more than 30 minutes, reach a range of more than 2 kilometers (1.24 miles), and stay stable in 25-knot (89 mph) winds. Onboard, it carries a sensitive daytime camera and a thermal imager, capable of capturing videos and images, as well as a software-defined data system.
“We all sat together, the whole team, both on the U.S. side and the Norwegian side, to focus — we need to have a game-changing capability,” Nils Haagenrud, senior director of unmanned aerial systems programs, told C4ISRNET in an interview.
Militaries the world over are increasingly investing in uncrewed technologies. Drones and robots offer troops a means to reconnoiter, refine targeting and attack from afar with little human risk. Commercial interest is also booming: The civilian market is expected to reach $38 billion by 2027, according to Statista, a data-gathering and analysis firm.
Tens of thousands of older Black Hornets were delivered to forces in more than 40 countries, including Ukraine. The U.S. Army began buying Black Hornets five years ago as part of the soldier-borne sensor program, and has since placed orders totaling more than $125 million.
The lessons learned — both stateside and abroad — helped mold Black Hornet 4, according to Haagenrud and his colleague, David Viens.
“It gives us a lot of experiential learning and a lot of customer engagement to know what the customer needs in the next generation,” said Viens, vice president of business development in the United States. “We have a lot of good information from the customer in Ukraine, but it’s sensitive. We can say the systems are being used very effectively.”
The company is expected to pitch its product to the U.S. Defense Department. The Norwegian armed forces are another significant consideration, according to Haagenrud.
Teledyne’s operations are concentrated in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Europe.
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.