MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — The PD-100 Black Hornet has deployed with Marine Corps special operations teams, but the micro drone's manufacturer sees potential for significantly wider use among conventional combat forces.

Created by Prox Dynamics, this handheld helicopter is a powerful surveillance tool that can be tough to detect. It was on display here Tuesday at the Modern Day Marine exposition.

James Mitchell, a Marine veteran representing Prox Dynamics, said the drone — which the company calls it as a "personal reconnaissance system" — can track enemy movements, investigate suspicious objects, and help troops see down hallways or behind buildings. And it's incredibly easy to use, Mitchell added, saying he learned to operate one after a 20-minute crash course. 

While on active duty, Mitchell served as a squad leader with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, an infantry unit based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He said the Black Hornet could prove to be a lifesaver in combat. No longer do commanders have to use personnel to inspect a vehicle that may contain explosives. Instead, Mitchell said, the first check can be performed by an expendable micro drone.

"All I can think," he said, "is why didn't I have this in Afghanistan."

A Prox Dynamics employee shows off their nano-UAV, the PD-100 Black Hornet personal reconnaissance system at the Modern Day Marine expo at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va., on Tuesday, September 22, 2015.
A Prox Dynamics employee shows off their nano-UAV, the PD-100 Black Hornet personal reconnaissance system at the Modern Day Marine expo at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va., on Tuesday, September 22, 2015.

The Black Hornet has three cameras capable of capturing live video or still imagery.

Photo Credit: Mike Morones/Staff

The Black Hornet has three cameras: one facing forward, one downward at 45 degrees and a third aimed straight down. Those cameras can be used to capture live video or still imagery.

Its range is about one mile, with a ceiling surpassing 10,000 feet above sea level. It can hover for 20 to 25 minutes.

A Black Hornet package weighs 2.8 pounds and can be mounted on troops' chests. It comes with two drones, each weighing just over half an ounce, a controller, a monitor and a docking station.

Each helicopter takes about 20 to 25 minutes to reach a 90 percent charge, meaning that when one is low on power, the second is ready to fly. The system can be charged with a wall outlet, a car charger, or a standard 5590 military battery that troops use to power their radios.

A Prox Dynamics employee shows off their nano-UAV, the PD-100 Black Hornet personal reconnaissance system at the Modern Day Marine expo at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va., on Tuesday, September 22, 2015.
A Prox Dynamics employee shows off their nano-UAV, the PD-100 Black Hornet personal reconnaissance system at the Modern Day Marine expo at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va., on Tuesday, September 22, 2015.

Weighing just 2.8 pounds, a Black Hornet package can be mounted on the chest. It contains two micro drones, a remote control, a docking station and a monitor.

Photo Credit: Mike Morones/Staff