Army to Buy $39.6 Million Worth of Pocket-Sized Drones

The U.S. Army just awarded FLIR Systems Inc. a $39.6 million contract for its Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System (PRS) to support the service’s Soldier Borne Sensor effort. Flir Systems Inc. photo
The U.S. Army just awarded FLIR Systems Inc. a $39.6 million contract for its Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System (PRS) to support the service’s Soldier Borne Sensor effort. Flir Systems Inc. photo

The U.S. Army will soon field more pocket-sized drones to its squads and platoons under a recent $39.6 million contract award to FLIR Systems Inc. to support small-unit reconnaissance efforts.

The FLIR Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System, or PRS, resembles a tiny helicopter and flies almost silently. Soldiers can use the onboard camera to look around corners in urban areas or recon unfamiliar terrain.

"The highly capable nano-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems delivered under this contract will support platoon and small-unit level surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities as part of the Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) Program," according to a recent FLIR press release.

The Army awarded the first SBS phase contract to FLIR for an initial batch of Black Hornets in June, the release states. This latest contract will expand the use of FLIR's Black Hornet for the SBS effort.

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"We are proud to be selected by the U.S. Army for the SBS Program of Record; this contract represents a significant milestone with the operational large-scale deployment of nano-UAVs into the world's most powerful Army," said Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems.

"This contract is a major win for the newly established Unmanned Systems & Integrated Solutions business division at FLIR and demonstrates the strong and urgent demand for nano-UAV technology offered by FLIR. Protecting U.S. warfighters with our unmanned solutions is a key objective for FLIR."

The Army has been working on the SBS program for some time. Soldiers evaluated early versions of the Black Hornet in March 2015 during the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The latest version of the Black Hornet can fly for up to 25 minutes and transmit live video and still images from up to two kilometers away, according to FLIR's website.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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