British soldiers stationed in Afghanistan are being given tiny drones that could make surveillance in combat even easier. The BBC reports that the UK Ministry of Defense has purchased 160 Black Hornet Nano drones, which weigh half an ounce and measure around 4 x 1 inches. The Black Hornet carries a camera and can fly for about half an hour; it's meant to let soldiers see around corners or find explosives and enemies without putting themselves in danger. It's also part of what the Ministry of Defense calls a larger push for surveillance and intelligence-gathering tools.
While the tiny Black Hornet is supposed to be able to fly even in windy or harsh conditions, miniature drones haven't always worked out well in real life. In 2011, Wired reported that US military forces often didn't see a need to use the 4-pound Raven drone — they felt limited by its short range and the fear of crashing or losing it, and surveillance methods that worked with larger Predator drones were unsuited to smaller models. The Black Hornet may overcome these challenges — a spokeswoman said they've been used in Afghanistan since 2012, possibly on a trial basis — but no matter how it performs, automated surveillance will remain a major part of modern combat.