Nov 232011
 

A team of SF operators is postured outside a compound in downtown Kandahar. Intel has led them this far; inside the compound is a Taliban commander responsible for numerous civilian and military casualties. It’s unknown who else are inside with him; heavily armed fighters, a suicide bomber, or innocent women and children? One of the operators rips a device the size of a book from a pouch and flicks it open. He takes out a tiny 15 gram nano-UAV, snaps the rotor blade onto the body and throws it in the air. It shoots up and over the mud-brick wall, the onboard camera beaming a clear picture back to the screen in his hands. Unseen it silently zips past four armed guards in front of the main building and enters through an open window. Inside a group of men are holding a shura. The target has been identified! With a crump the team breaches the compound and rapidly overwhelms the security detail. They make a bee-line for the room containing the target. Moments later the dust has settled and the objective is zip-tied, hooded and ready for processing.

Sounds like something straight out of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare right? Wrong, it’s the not so distant future for UK SF. The Ministry of Defence has just awarded a contract to Prox Dynamics to provide lightweight nano-UAVs for urgent deployment to Afghanistan.

The device selected is the PD-100 Personal Reconnaissance System and comes packaged inside a base station that holds three UAVs and weighs less than kilo.  The idea is an operator can fly one of these UAVs into a building to identify civilians, terrorists, IEDs or other threats.

It’s still early days for this technology and although the MoD contract specifies Night Vision this is yet to be featured on the PD-100. However GPS navigation and a live-video feed in a matchbox-sized package is impressive and it’s only a matter of time before these are able to see in the dark. Odds are they’re going to get even smaller, not to mention that basic reconnaissance is just the beginning. I’ll wager we’ll eventually see miniature payloads for tracking or listening devices, and maybe even a Mossad-style chemical injection weapon for a standoff offensive capability. Yeah large unmanned platforms have been the focus for development over the last decade but expect to hear a lot more about nano-UAVs.

Til next time,

Jack

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