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15 August 2012

The PD-100 BLACK HORNET - A Closer Look

Prox Dynamics' PD-100 BLACK HORNET was publically displayed for the first time at the Counter Terrorist Expo in London April 2012, and it is time to take a closer look at this Nano System.

(Photo: Prox Dynamics)

The PD-100 BLACK HORNET is a complete system comprising two nano air vehicles (NUAV) and a ground element. It’s design and functionality is closely linked to the Personal Reconnaissance System concept. This is evident in the system size, layout and simplicity, but most importantly in the performance and specifications of the system.

The air vehicle itself weighs 16g and comprises all the subsystems found in larger systems; an advanced autopilot capable of autonomous flight; a payload consisting of three daylight cameras that provides tilt and zoom functions; and a single digital data link which is used to uplink vehicle and payload commands, and downlink compressed image and system data at ranges up to 1,000 metres. The internal rechargeable battery provides endurance of more than 25 minutes depending on wind conditions and operating radius.

Navigation and flight guidance is performed by the inertial reference unit and the onboard GPS. Total weight of all electronics including processors, antennas, gyros, accelerometers, pressure sensor, compass, GPS and PCB is only three grams.

Flight control is provided through the autopilot using a simple and innovative rotor mechanism consisting of only a handful moving parts. The air vehicle is capable of operating in 10-15 knots winds thanks to the agility and maneuverability offered by single rotor designs.

The ground element of the BLACK HORNET system consist of a Base station, a hand Controller and an external Display. The Base station is the hub of the system providing the operating system, main electronics, internal batteries and chargers. In addition it is used to house, recharge and protect the air vehicles when they are not in use.

The Controller is used for all system interfaces including controlling the air vehicle and the payload. As seen in the pictures the system does not employ a joystick for aircraft control, but rather utilizes the capabilities of the autopilot and simple to understand button functions to command the aircraft. The Controller also contain the ground part of the data link a GPS.

Main features of the PD-100 system:

  • Embedded mission planning functions 
  • Single hand operation 
  • Hand launched and automatic landing 
  • Live stabilised video and still images 
  • In-flight still image analysis 
  • Target position estimation 
  • Auto and directed autopilot modes 
  • Auto return if loss of link or low battery 
  • Embedded mission review functions

It was a short, but proud moment for the company when the PD-100 nanocopter serial number 100 “rolled” off the production line and was delivered to the customer in June, thereby reaching one of Prox Dynamics' important milestones in ramping up the production of helicopters. Final assembly of the aircraft is still completed at Prox Dynamics using subassemblies and parts produced by their international and Norwegian partners. Transfer of tooling and expertise is however ongoing in order to perform all production of helicopters and ground units at specialised production facilities.

(Photo: Prox Dynamics)

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