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Wanted: Minidrone for Combat Troops

A soldier prepares to launch a prototype soldier-borne sensor during AEWE 2015 at Fort Benning, Ga. Experimenting with prototypes saves time and money, and offers more flexibility to explore the possibilities of technology.
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U.S. Army
Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Army wants to invest in a new type of personal drone kit for use by combat soldiers on the battlefield. The Common Light Autonomous Robotics Kit, or CLARK, is envisioned as a pocket-sized system designed to give troops on the ground a way to conduct close reconnaissance and investigate threats from safe distances.

In a recent request for information, the Army said it wants the complete kit—including drone, controller, batteries and carrying case—to weigh less than 3 pounds, with the drone itself weighing no more than 5 ounces. The drone also must be able to operate day or night and in light precipitation, and must work effectively up to about a third of a mile away from the operator for up to 15 minutes.

Other requirements specify that the drone should be able to detect a man-sized target with 90 percent probability at a range of 100 meters during the day and 50 meters at night. Further, it should be able to detect, at a range of 20 meters during the day, a man-sized target and determine with 90 percent probability if that target is armed with a rifle.

Finally, operators must be able to hand-launch the drone while in the prone position or from cover—“a hide site, confined area or alleyway-type locations,” according to the information request—and be able to get the drone from storage to launch in no more than 60 seconds.

Army officials have indicated they’ll probably make limited purchases over the next year or two and then push ahead on larger-scale buys in fiscal year 2018.