PD-100 Black Hornet PRS: Aerial Recon for Small Frontline Squads

By RD Symms

The PD-100 Black Hornet PRS (personal reconnaissance system) unmanned aerial vehicle makes lifesaving aerial recon available for every frontline soldier. Whether it’s a small unit or a single special operator, Black Hornet deploys immediate eyes in the sky—day and night—from the palm of a trooper’s hand. Save lives. Avoid unnecessary casualties. See harm’s way before entering it.

What is the PD-100 Black Hornet PRS?

Manufactured by Prox Dynamics, a division of FLIR Unmanned Aerial Systems AS, the PD-100 Black Hornet PRS utilizes advanced low-power rotor technology and proprietary software for flight control, stabilization, and communications. The night operations nano unmanned air vehicle (NUAV) live streams infrared video using FLIR's Lepton micro thermal camera. The day operations NUAV live streams color video and HD images using three visible spectrum cameras. Both NUAVs resemble miniature helicopters.

The Black Hornet NUAV is one of the lightest, stealthiest, and safest drones on the market, offering a highly advanced, lifesaving surveillance solution for traditional military forces and special operations forces. Weighing less than one ounce, the Black Hornet NUAV can fly for up to 25 minutes at line-of-sight distances of up to one mile while providing live stream video and HD still photos back to an operator. Its quiet electric motor paired with its small size make it virtually undetectable, even if it’s only ten feet away.

With its advanced on-board systems, the Black Hornet PRS gives ground troops Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) imaging capability, meaning that the operator can fly the NUAV behind buildings or over hills and ridgelines without losing the Black Hornet’s video feed. This is a singular capability that lets ground units operate efficiently in urban and other built-up areas.

Why was the PD-100 Black Hornet PRS developed?

Prior to the development of PD-100 Black Hornet PRS, dismounted squads or single operators had to rely on external resources for drone deployment and aerial intel. At the very least, that process wasted precious time in the field. At worst, soldiers couldn’t communicate with external resources to request the assistance and had to walk blindly into an unknown situation.

Prox Dynamics developed PD-100 Black Hornet PRS to give soldiers immediate situational awareness, even if they are completely disconnected. When FLIR’s Lepton micro thermal camera came online, it made it possible for operators to gather intel day and night.

What’s included in the PD-100 Black Hornet PRS package?

With a total weight of about three pounds, the PD-100 Black Hornet PRS includes:

  • Wearable base station
  • Single-hand controller
  • Display unit
  • NUAVs (recommend a minimum of 2 daylight operations units and 1 night operations unit)
  • Spare rotors
  • Tactical pouch system
  • External antenna (for extended range and urban operations)
  • Custom PeliCase

The normal training course for operators lasts only three days. However, it’s possible for an operator to learn basic flight training and maneuvering in as little as two hours.

How is PD-100 Black Hornet PRS deployed?

The PD-100 Black Hornet PRS is not a specialist system and is operable by any soldier in the field. Individual NUAVs take less than a minute to hand-launch. Squads can always have a NUAV in the air while other units are charging on the wearable base station. There’s no need to return to a vehicle or fall back to recharge. The operator wears the battery pack in the tactical pouch system.

The single-hand controller frees up the operator’s other hand for multi-tasking, whether it’s prepping another NUAV or holding onto a weapon. “We are strong believers in the one-handed controller. It gives you more freedom for the other hand, and it is also very robust in adverse weather conditions,” said Arne Skjaerpe, FLIR Systems Vice President of UAV Operations.

How can PD-100 Black Hornet PRS be used?

Current missions include:

  • Search and rescue 
  • Confined areas reconnaissance 
  • Obstacle circumnavigation
  • Situational awareness birds-eye view 
  • Object identification 
  • Proximity surveillance 
  • Crowd control 
  • Nuclear installations inspection
  • Chemical plant incident reconnaissance

More than 25 countries around the world are already using PD-100 PRS for both military and law enforcement applications. Here are a couple of testimonials to how the UK military has used PD-100 PRS in the recent past.

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. – Sergeant Christopher Petherbridge, Brigade Reconnaissance Force

Previously, we would have had to send soldiers forward to see if there were any enemy fighters hiding inside a set of buildings. Now we are deploying Black Hornet to look inside compounds and to clear a route through enemy-held spaces. It has worked very well. The pictures it delivers back to the monitor are really clear and Black Hornet is so small and quiet that the locals can’t see or hear it. – Major Adam Foden

As the PD-100 Black Hornet PRS becomes more popular, FLIR UAS AS is committed to staying ahead of demand. According to Ole Aguirre, Director Business Development at FLIR UAS AS, “Militaries around the world are already saving lives thanks to Black Hornet video and HD imagery. For militaries that want their frontline soldiers to be supported by personal UAVs, we want to make sure we have the supply available to meet demand.”

How rugged is the PD-100 PRS?

The overall system is battle-tested and designed for repeated use in the field. Black Hornet NUAVs are built to resist hard landings and crashes. However, in the event that a NUAV is destroyed or lost, new NUAVs can be added without needing to replace the whole system.

About FLIR Unmanned Aerial Systems AS

At FLIR UAS our core mission is to develop, produce and sell the world’s smallest and most advanced Personal Reconnaissance System (PRS). We create innovative solutions to complex problems based on modern microelectronics, new sensor technology, creative mechanical design and efficient low-cost production techniques. We work closely with industry leading partners and a broad customer base to deliver optimal and functional products that meet operator’s needs.

As the world’s largest PRS Company, FLIR UAS today is uniquely set up to meet the rapidly increasing need for small “pocket” sized flying soldier sensors. By matching our internal R&D with close cooperation and partnership with customers and operators, we strive to enhance our product line with new innovative technologies. FLIR UAS carefully controls all aspects of product production and has established in-house manufacturing for all mission critical components. All parts of our product portfolio are continually reviewed to ensure that we expanding with our increasing customer demands.