U.S. Army engineers are working on a mini aerial surveillance drone for troops working in challenging environments. Once deployed, the scifi-like device could allow soldiers to get a bird's-eye view of their immediate area, or scan the contents of a room as they clear a building.
It's called the Cargo Pocket ISR, where ISR stands for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. The device, which is being developed at the U.S. Army's Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, will enhance the situational awareness of soldiers working on the ground by "providing real-time video surveillance of threat areas within their immediate operational environment."
To build it, Army engineers are looking into pre-existing commercial off-the-shelf technologies to "identify a surrogate CP-ISR system." From army.mil:
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. Tiny, electric propellers and motors make the device virtually undetectable to subjects under surveillance.
The size, weight and image-gathering capabilities of the system are promising advancements that fulfill the burgeoning requirement for an organic, squad-level ISR capability, but more work still needs to be done.
From here, the engineers are looking to redesign the digital data link to achieve compatibility with US Army standards, along with increasing its payload capacity so it can conduct low-light imaging (allowing for indoor and night operations). In addition, they'd like to improve its guidance, navigation, and control algorithms to allow the airborne sensors to operate in confined and indoor spaces, like when a solider advances from room to room as they're clearing buildings.
"While the final system could be different from the surrogate system, NSRDEC is focused on proving the basic capability first," adds army.mil.