The company behind these pocket-sized military surveillance drones just got bought for $134 million


The Black Hornet is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

The leading maker of thermal imaging sensors, Flir, bought a Norwegian drone maker for $134 million, the company announced Wednesday.

Flir acquired Prox Dynamics, which makes the Black Hornet, a tiny nano-drone used by the military and law enforcement for surveillance and reconnaissance. The drone is deployed by throwing it in the air and is small enough to fit in a soldier’s pocket. Despite its compact frame, the Black Hornet carries three cameras.

The palm-sized aircraft is used by the U.S. Marines, the British Army, the Australian Army and Norway’s Armed Forces.

The two companies collaborated before the acquisition; Prox already uses Flir cameras and stabilization technology in its drones. Flir plans to improve on the Black Hornet and add the drone to its line of surveillance products.

Prox isn’t the only drone maker Flir has worked with. The thermal imaging company also joined with DJI, the Chinese manufacturer that controls roughly 70 percent of the consumer drone market, to make a camera for DJI drones that can film in complete darkness. Still, in the U.S. it’s currently illegal to fly a drone at night without a special waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration.

$134 million is a large sum for a company that’s only known for one product, but military contracts can be extremely lucrative. The U.K. Armed Forces paid $28.9 million for Black Hornets in 2015, and AAI, an aviation defense manufacturing firm, was just awarded a $206 million U.S. Army contract to work on the Shadow drone.

President-elect Donald Trump wants to resume law enforcement access to military equipment, so Flir acquired Black Hornet at an opportune time, when its client base in the U.S. may soon swell.

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