At four inches by one inch and weighing half of an ounce (16 grams), Black Hornet is more Pixar character than fighting drone. And like a Pixar character, one gets the sense that though it is now in the secret agent arsenal of at least three countries—the United States, Britain and Israel—it could easily be swatted away, with the use of a powerful fan as an effective countermeasure.

Invented and manufactured by Prox Dynamics of Norway, as this federal contract shows, the U.S. Army has a handful of Black Hornets—some owned by the Army Soldier Center for research purposes and others for special operations. The tiny, $40,000 PD-100 Black Hornet has been part of the British military’s arsenal since May 2012 as part of Operation Herrick. In 2013, the U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD) publicly announced that the Brigade Reconnaissance Force had deployed the Black Hornet drone in Afghanistan. Several other Afghanistan “coalition partners” are also reported to fly the drone, Norway being the most obvious candidate. The Blackwater-esque company Triple Canopy also is flying the Black Hornet on security guard duties in Israel, according to Phase Zero sources.

Black Hornet is so compact it can be carried by the single soldier on a combat vest. It is intended for short range scouting of interior spaces, such as buildings or caves. And in outdoor testing, it has achieved 25-minute flight duration. The PD-100 “T” version (at an obese 18 grams) includes a an integrated thermal and daylight camera with fused imagery that enhances low- or no-light operations. In June 2014, Prox Dynamics introduced the Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System (PRS) Block II, a further upgrade. The company claims that the system is capable of performing in harsh environments and windy conditions, but one gets the impression that that is a lot of hyperbole.

A personal reconnaissance system, intelligence in the palm of the hand; if it isn’t already a real capability of special operations forces and paramilitaries, it likely soon will be.

Fun Facts About Black Hornet:

  • Black Hornet, while not specifically mentioned, was referred to as vital part of the United Kingdom’s 10-year defence equipment plan, published in 2012. Philip Dunne, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, was quoted as saying, “Black Hornet gives our troops the benefits of surveillance in the palm of their hands. It is extremely light and portable whilst out on patrol.” Ha. Whilst. Defence. Brits are so cute.
  • These fun little buggers (also called Nano Helicopter UAVs) are called Cargo Pocket Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (CP-ISR) programs. Another day, another acronym.
  • They are being enhanced to be used indoors. From Defense AT&L Magazine: “This will allow the airborne sensor to operate in confined and indoor spaces, such as when soldiers advance from room to room as they are clearing buildings.” Someone call The Bachelor.
  • Here’s a cool video from Broadfield Security Services showing a mock up of soldiers using Black Hornet in action. Watch how effortlessly the actor launches it!

[Photos: UK Ministry of Defence and U.S. Army briefing document.]