Prox Dynamics: big maker of small drones
M. Michael Brady
In many of the applications of drones, the unmanned aerial vehicles named after the male bee, “small is bountiful” has become the design maxim, particularly for drones used for reconnaissance. The smaller the reconnaissance drone, the more easily it is transported to and deployed at a launch location, and the less obvious it is in hostile situations, as in military operations and law enforcement. In that league, the Black Hornet Nano, a miniature Personal Reconnaissance System (PRS) helicopter developed and manufactured by Prox Dynamics of Norway, currently is the world leader.
Black Hornets were first used by the Norwegian Army. In May 2012, they were deployed with the UK forces in Afghanistan. To date, some 3,000 increasingly sophisticated models have been sold in 16 countries. In the U.S. they have been classified as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and have been field tested by the Army and the Marines, with an eye to deployment in 2017.
The Black Hornet is advantageously small, 10 x 2.5 cm (4 x 1 in), and weighs just 16 grams (slightly more than half an ounce). It carries three cameras offering forward, down, and angular views that are fed via a digital radio link to an operator up to 1.6 km (1 mile) away. It is nearly silent in flight and can fly at speeds up to 11 mph for 20 to 25 minutes on a single battery charge.
Prox Dynamics is a young company, founded in 2007 at Hvalstad in the Municipality of Asker, on the west bank of the Oslo Fjord, 20 km (12.4 miles) south of the city of Oslo. The location was opportune. Asker has long been known for its crafts; the Maud, the third of three ships of the heroic age of polar exploration, was built and launched there in 1916, for explorer Roald Amundsen’s first transit of the Northeast Passage (The Norwegian American, July 15, 2016). Many key businesses are located there; in 1963 the Swedish home furnishings giant IKEA chose Asker for the opening of its first store outside Sweden. Many famed families live in Asker, most prominently Crown Prince Haakon and his family at the Skaugum Estate. From the 1990s on, high-tech companies flocked to Asker, most notably the Information Technology (IT) Center of Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield services company. In short, it’s an ideal environment for a startup high-tech company.
For more about the company and their nano drones, see “Prox Dynamics targets US defense market” in the Sept. 9, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American at www.norwegianamerican.com/business/prox-dynamics-targets-us-defense-market/.
Further reading: “Unmanned vehicles: Army eyes hand-launched squad drone,” by John Keller, Military & Aerospace Electronics (published by PennWell of Nashua, NH, www.militaryaerospace.com), page 27, May 2016 issue, link: digital.militaryaerospace.com/militaryaerospace/201605?pg=29#pg29
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 4, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.