The Army is moving forward with a plan to put pocket-sized drones in the hands of its dismounted soldiers by 2018.
The service on March 1 requested information papers from industry on what technology might be available for what it's calling Soldier Borne Sensors. The Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, has a preliminary set of requirements and plans to go back-and-forth with industry on what already exists or could become quickly available.
"We've had numerous studies as well as experimentation within our battle labs. We continue to see that soldiers are kind of lacking at the squad level for relevant information that's immediately around them," said Phil Cheatum, deputy branch chief of electronics and special developments at MCoE.
But he also added: "We don't know what we don't know about what's out there right now."
Unmanned aerial systems such as the Gray Eagle and Shadow, which are part of larger units, have improved situational awareness for the Army. But a squad trying to clear a city block or go over a hill can remain blind to more detailed and rapidly changing threats. A quickly-deployable SBS would give squads real-time ability to inspect its most intimate threats.