Prox Dynamics has achieved the maiden flight of Hornet-1, first prototype of its advanced PD-100 Black Hornet nano unmanned aerial rotorcraft system, which the Hvalstad, Norway-based company claims is the world’s smallest full authority helicopter.

Take-off, forward movement, turning and landing were demonstrated in a flight lasting more than 2min. Engineer and test pilot Pål Sandberg says: “It’s surprisingly easy to fly.”

Hornet-1 weighs less than 15g (0.53oz) and has a rotor diameter of 100mm (3.9in) – the same dimensions and weight as the production version – but features a much simpler avionics package. Flight control is based on a standard radio system and servos designed and developed in-house.

The rotor system is described by Prox Dynamics as a completely new design comprising a two-bladed single rotor having some inherent stability. This is controlled by the company’s own PDS-2 servos, which it claims are the smallest and lightest in the world, weighing less than 0.5g.

Hornet-1 will primarily be used to verify the concept of the rotor system mechanics, gather aero dynamical data and to some extent demonstrate the operational concept to potential users.

The PD-100 Black Hornet concept is for a video camera-equipped helicopter less than 100 mm long and weighing less than 20g, capable of being launched within seconds for a closer look at a hostile area or inside a contaminated building.

The company plans to release the first version of Black Hornet in 2009, with expected volume shipments to key customers in 2010.

On launching the programme in March chief technology officer Trygve Marton said: “We will develop a kind of aircraft so far only seen in science fiction movies. Potential customers will range from scientists and engineers to police, fire fighters, military and special forces.”

Source: Flight International