An Oregon-based company is adding drone hardware to its well-established thermal-imaging sensor line.
FLIR Systems announced Wednesday the $134 million acquisition of Prox Dynamics AS, a Norwegian-based developer and manufacturer of nano-class drones used by military and para-military intelligence for surveillance and reconnaissance.
Although the company specializes in thermal imaging and threat detection systems, the acquisition is not FLIR’s first dance in the drone sector. In 2015, the company partnered with mega-drone maker DJI in a deal that married DJI Inspire 1 and Matrice 100 UAVs with FLIR’s Zenmuse XT thermal-imaging camera. In May, FLIR debuted the Vue Pro R at AUVSI’s Xponential 2016 trade show. The new model adds radiometric data acquisition features to a pre-existing thermal imager.
Buying Prox will allow FLIR to leverage its Lepton micro thermal camera and visible spectrum cameras with Prox’s Black Hornet 2 nano-drone system.
The Black Hornet is the capstone of Prox’s Personal Reconnaissance System that features an aerial sensor and a hand controller – “a system that is pocket sized and hand-launched by a soldier in the field, enabling a significant advantage in situational awareness and mission planning,” a FLIR press release stated.
With a rotor span of only four inches, the single-rotor Black Hornet boasts a maximum speed of 5 meters per second and can fly up to 25 minutes per charge. The model’s digital data link extends to a 1 mile line-of-sight. Like many newer drone models, the Black Hornet offers an autopilot mode with autonomous and directed options.
“This acquisition adds a unique unmanned aerial systems capability to our portfolio,” FLIR CEO Andy Teich said, adding that the deal “fits well with our vision for growth for our surveillance segment.” Teich praised Prox for operating with a “commercial mindset,” and he hopes that will make the deal a perfect match for FLIR’s “commercially developed, military qualified” operating philosophy. Prox will transition into FLIR’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) line of business operating within the “surveillance segment.”