Sergeant Scott Weaver, of The Queens Royal Lancers, launches a Black Hornet Nano UAV from a compound in Afghanistan (credit MoD)

Miniature spy helicopters launched by British Army

British troops in Afghanistan have demonstrated new state-of-the-art handheld nano surveillance helicopters.

The Black Hornet Nano Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) measures around 4in by 1in (10cm x 2.5cm) and provides troops on the ground with vital situational awareness.

The Scandinavian-designed Black Hornet is equipped with a tiny camera which relays reliable full-motion video and still images to troops.

Soldiers are using it to peer around corners or over walls and other obstacles to identify any hidden dangers and the images are displayed on a handheld terminal.

They can either pilot it directly or program it to fly to a given set of GPS co-ordinates on the battlefield, then return it to base after surveilling the enemy.

This revolutionary new system – the size of a child’s toy – is carried easily on patrol and is capable of performing in harsh environments and windy conditions.

The Black Hornet weighs as little as 16g and has been developed by Prox Dynamics of Norway as part of a £20m contract for 160 units with Marlborough Communications in Surrey.

Sergeant Christopher Petherbridge of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force in Afghanistan said: "Black Hornet is definitely adding value, especially considering the lightweight nature of it. We use it to look for insurgent firing points and check out exposed areas of the ground before crossing, which is a real asset.

"It is very easy to operate and offers amazing capability to the guys on the ground."

The Black Hornet was declared fit for service in Afghanistan after extensive field trials in Cyprus last year.

Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Philip Dunne, said: "Black Hornet gives our troops the benefits of surveillance in the palm of their hands. It is extremely light and portable while out on patrol.

"Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems are a key component in our 10-year equipment plan and now that we have balanced the Defence Budget we are able to confidently invest in these kinds of cutting-edge technologies."

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