Eurosatory 2024 – Teledyne FLIR Black Recon: integral reconnaissance UAS for armoured vehicles gets closer to reality

Paolo Valpolini

Unveiled at DSEI London in September 2023, the Black Recon, the rotary-wing based UAS reconnaissance system for armoured vehicles developed by Teledyne FLIR, was presented at Eurosatory 2024 in a much more evolved version

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It is always interesting following the evolution of a programme, and nine months after DSEI 2023 Teledyne FLIR presented in Paris the evolution of its Black Recon system, which aims providing a “recce in a box” solution for armoured vehicles of all kinds.

At the London event the system was definitely in its infancy, while in Paris it has evolved, although the actual Black Recon UAS was not yet visible. The company was unable to find a solution to have a flight demonstration at the exhibition, however even with a “manual” approach of the rotary wing surrogate UAS it was immediately possible to note a major difference with what seen last year; in London the system was wobbling while the aircraft model was approaching while now the grabbing is much smoother, the two arms grabbing the helicopter fuselage in a straightforward movement. The grippers themselves have been changed. “We have done a lot of work on the algorithms in order to improve the tracking and thus the catching of the incoming UAV,” Widar Halvorsen, Product Director of Vehicle Reconnaissance Systems at Teledyne FLIR Defense told EDR On-Line. Landing is of course the most difficult operation.

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Once the Black Recon has been grabbed, the arm rotates nearly 90° and the system is lowered, inserting the helicopter rotor-first into a receptacle where it will find power and data connectors, allowing to reload the battery and download images and other data, images having of course already been sent in real time. Three such receptacles are available, one over the other, on one side of the box, the usual routine being to launch one aircraft, which takes over the mission of the UAV on stance, the latter coming back to base to reload, while a third one is ready to take off in case of need. EDR On-Line understood that full tests with the flying surrogate were carried out one month ago.

While some adjustments have still to be made to the box, the airborne element is in full development and should be available early next year to start full tests. The Black Recon will be fitted with two colour day cameras, one looking forward with a wide field of view and one looking upwards, used for example to inspect underneath bridges, while three thermal cameras are pointed forward, their images being stitched together to provide a single wide field of view image.

“We aim presenting the full system next year, probably at DSEI, and we plan starting production in Q2/Q3 2025,” Widar Halvorsen concluded.

Photos by P. Valpolini