The UK Ministry of Defence has released the first images showing the Black Hornet nano unmanned air system being used by its personnel in Afghanistan under an acquisition worth £20 million ($31 million).

Described by its Norwegian developer Prox Dynamics as a "nanocopter", the 4.7in (120mm) rotor diameter PD-100 air vehicle was first used on deployed operations in May 2012. The company delivered its 100th unit the following month, and says the 500th production example was due to be handed over in December.

 Black Hornet UAV - Crown Copyright

Crown Copyright

Prox Dynamics says each Black Hornet system comprises two 4in-long air vehicles and a ground control element. With a 25min flight endurance carrying a daylight camera payload, the 16 gram PD-100 can transmit video and still imagery to a handheld terminal from a range of up to 0.5nm (1km), it says.

 Black Hornet flies - Crown Copyright

Crown Copyright

The MoD has a total of 160 Black Hornet units on order via the UK's Marlborough Communications, with the company also responsible for providing personnel training, repair activities and spares.

"Previously we would have sent 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," says a British Army officer quoted by Marlborough Communications.

In October, the MoD disclosed that 64 Black Hornets were in use in Afghanistan, as part of a deployed UK inventory totalling a combined 335 unmanned air vehicles.

Source: Flight International