The US Army will deploy Northrop Grumman's heterogeneous airborne reconnaissance team (HART) system to Afghanistan in early 2012 with a brigade combat team.
HART enables soldiers at small unit level without their own UAV to benefit from the huge number of assets overflying the battlefield.
It requires several computing systems, ranging from a relatively large one for the tactical operations centre to a 3lb (1.3kg) model for use by deployed troops.
A user can request surveillance of an area and HART will automatically choose and task the available airborne assets as necessary.
Footage from the UAV is automatically downgraded into still frames if the user lacks sufficient bandwidth.
Northrop says HART can integrate with any aircraft, although it requires some software modification on HART's part.
Nine surveillance platforms have been integrated so far, with a further three pending.
HART has been tested during three major exercises, twice by the marines and once by the army.