US Army hopes to outfit soldiers with tiny drones by 2018

Infantry could count on small UAVs to peek over hills and buildings.

Sgt Rupert Frere/RLC

American soldiers should soon get drone support beyond just big, expensive machines flying well above the battlefield. The US Army has requested industry information on the feasibility of making tiny drones (Soldier Borne Sensors in official lingo) that would help infantry gather intelligence on a small scale, such as peeping over a hill or around a building. Its dream recon machine would weigh no more than a third of a pound, launch within one minute and fly for at least 15 minutes. Ideally, the drones would be in service as soon as 2018.

These kinds of drones aren't completely new (both British and Norwegian soldiers are already using them). However, they're usually hand-built and expensive -- not very practical for one of the world's largest militaries. This initiative could lead to mass-produced miniature recon drones that help squads when conventional air support just isn't an option.