BRITISH troops are testing a new nano-drone which is smaller than a can of Red Bull and can be fired from a grenade launcher.
The tiny D40 drone can be fitted with a camera or loaded with explosives to form a tiny guided bomb.
A crack recce unit is trialling it for use on a mission to the Sahara desert this year.
The “Scorpion squad” of 250 troops are due to deploy to Mali, in West Africa, as part of a new UN strike force.
The drone – controlled by a smartphone – will let troops see over sand dunes to avoid surprise attacks.
Major Jamie Powell, from 2 Royal Anglians, said: “It’s really exciting. We’re the first to get the roll out of this new kit. In that sense we are a bit of a battle lab.”
Troops from the Light Dragoons and 2 Royal Anglians will also have new night vision goggles and SlingShot radios which work over hundreds of miles.
Medics will carry powdered plasma to treat casualties far from hospital.
They will form a long range recce group – modelled on the unit which spawned the SAS – with orders to patrol up to 300 miles to gather intelligence and disrupt terrorist attacks.
Lt Gen Dennis Gyllensporre, the UN force commander, warned it will be “tougher than Afghanistan” where 456 British soldiers died.
He said the 13,000 strong UN force did not have enough helicopters.
The Brit troops will be based in Gao, 200 miles east of Timbuktu.
They will patrol in open top Jackals, the modern cousins of the fighting jeeps pioneered by the legendary Long Range Desert Group in Libya in WW2.
The drone folds up into a cylinder 40mm in diameter then springs into a quadcopter once it is launched.
It is designed to fly alone or in swarms with other drones.
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