Feeds

'Soon soldiers will have 3 tiny choppers in their pocket'

Norwegian 'Black Hornet' shown off outdoors

Boost IT visibility and business value

Top Norwegian microcopter boffins say they have now successfully tested the fagpacket-sized PD-100 Black Hornet vidcam whirlybird - outdoors. The firm has also released video of the tiny aircraft in indoor flight tests:

The PD-100 isn't the same as your common-or-garden cheapo remote control toy copter, great as those are. As owners will know, these little machines don't offer full control of the sort a real chopper does: there's no real option to hover in one place, speed up, decelerate etc. Remote-control copters which can fly like a real full-size one are comparatively large, complex and expensive - indeed, some of them are full size.

But the main special sauce of Prox Dynamics, the Norgie firm behind the PD-100, is very tiny control servos - "the smallest and lightest in the world, weighing less than 0.5 grams". Thus a PD-100 is even smaller than a typical toy battery-copter, but has full control and is able to hover and to achieve airspeeds approaching 20mph.

The latest prototype, the Hornet-3a, was flown outdoors in light winds earlier this month. The test was reported this morning by Flight International. According to a Prox Dynamics statement:

The advanced flight controls system makes the Hornet-3a very easy to fly. Being able to operate the 15 grams UAV outdoors in wind and gust is considered a vital part of its operational capabilities. It is also one of the most challenging tasks for the flight controls and autopilot system. A major milestone was therefore reached on April 7th when the Hornet-3a made its first flights outdoors.

With the Norwegian snow still present the Hornet-3a was flown in dry conditions with light variable wind up to 2 m/s. The aircraft showed no adverse controllability issues either in hover or during high speed passes. Over distance the Hornet-3a was able to maintain an average horizontal speed of 7 m/s with a maximum airspeed of 8 m/s. The test also confirmed some of the low signature capabilities of the system. Outside a distance of approximately three meters the sound from the helicopter was completely drowned by the ambient noise.

The full PD-100 microcopter, just over 10cm long, would easily fit in a flat pocket-sized case. It will be controlled from a handheld gadget offering video from the camera, simple manual controls, and "route following" using GPS, though this wouldn't work inside buildings. The little aircraft will even offer auto-hovering hands off, with the ability to resist gusts of wind to some degree; and "deployment of special payload" (presumably very small). Flight reports that endurance on a battery charge is expected to be 30min.

The idea is that soldiers might carry a few Black Hornets in a pocket. If they fancied a look inside a building, over a hill or crest, down a tunnel or something, they'd simply launch an almost-silent palmtop microcopter for a recce. Should the tiny chopper come to grief due to flat batteries, a prang or perhaps a rolled-up newspaper, no matter - several cheap replacements could easily be carried. The standard package will come with three aircraft, a pocket controller and a charger.

Black Hornet isn't quite the smallest microvidcopter design around - nor the stealthiest - but it seems to be much the nearest to reaching service.

"First delivery of an operational system is expected by the end of next year," according to Prox Dynamics. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.