In a military with an emphasis on big expensive robots like predator drones and PackBots, we're starting to see a different trend towards much smaller and slightly less expensive (but still quite expensive) robots designed for individual soldiers to use whenever they need them. No need to spend time calling in a huge aerial remote sensing platform: you can just toss out your own personal recon bot.
The robot is controlled with a thumb joystick, and sends a video feed back to a tablet. It self-stabilizes to make flying easier, and there are autopilot modes including GPS waypoint navigation, hover and stare, and pre-programmed search patterns.
The Black Hornet is nearly silent, has a range of 1000 meters, can fly for 25 minutes, and can go from pocket to flying in under 60 seconds.
When, at some point, every single soldier has personal robots like these to perform reconnaissance before putting themselves in danger, it's going to make a big difference.
It’s already making a difference to British units in Afghanistan:
Black Hornet is definitely adding value, especially considering the lightweight nature of it. We use it to look for insurgent firing points and check out exposed areas of the ground before crossing, which is a real asset. It is very easy to operate and offers amazing capability to the guys on the ground.