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26 Jul, 2014 09:31

Mini spy-craft: US Army working on pocket-sized surveillance drones

Mini spy-craft: US Army working on pocket-sized surveillance drones

The United States military is developing a mini-surveillance drone that would fit into soldiers’ pockets, with special features for dangerous combat zones.

The US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) in Massachusetts is behind the new technology research.

The mini-drone is called the 'Cargo Pocket ISR' and includes features such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

It looks like a toy palm-sized helicopter and weighs only 16 grams. But despite its miniature physical characteristics, the mini-drone will be capable of performing serious tasks.

The technology used by the Americans will borrow heavily from existing capabilities seen in pocket surveillance drones already in use by British troops in places like Afghanistan.

“Prox Dynamics' PD-100 Black Hornet, a palm-sized miniature helicopter weighing only 16 grams, has the ability to fly up to 20 minutes while providing real-time video via a digital data link from one of the three embedded cameras and operates remotely with GPS navigation,” the description of the British drone reads in the Army’s official press release published this week.

The best advantage is that due to its tiny propellers and motors, the device will be virtually undetectable to subjects under surveillance, the official press release said.

The goal is to provide soldiers with similar, but more short-distance reconnaissance capabilities that larger unmanned aerial vehicles have. After the work is done, the little machine will also be able to fly in low-light, as well as indoors.

Although combining the high-tech surveillance approach with a pocket-sized drone is a project still somewhat in its infancy for the US military, there are other squad-level surveillance devices already in use; the army tested hi-tech throwable cameras back in 2011.

Acting NSRDEC technical director Dr. Laurel Allender praised the new technology. “The Cargo Pocket ISR is a true example of an applied systems approach for developing new soldier capabilities. It provides an integrated capability for the soldier and small unit for increased situational awareness and understanding with negligible impact on soldier load and agility,” she said.

After the development stage is complete, the mini-drone will have to comply with the Army’s digital security standards.