Special Jerusalem Report

20 February 2003

Israel Aircrafts Industries are developing a tiny 100-gram aircraft with wings the size of a credit card, that can carry cameras and communications equipment, and would be used to send battlefield pictures back to a command headquarters. The U.S. has already developed similar planes and might be using them in the coming war in Iraq.

IAI, considered a world leader in developing unmanned aircraft, is also at work on unmanned helicopters - and an unmanned fighter jet.

The tiny plane's prototype has been tested with off-the shelf parts, including a wing made from an electronic card, while the engine is hobbyist-sized, and run off batteries. The camera weighs only a few grams.

The plane can be launched by hand and does not need wheels to land. The images it relays back to ground control can be displayed on a laptop or a PDA. Test flights have seen the plane fly hundreds of meters high for as long as 20 minutes. But R&D is still in its early stages.

The professional literature in recent years has been speculating about using miniaturization technologies - including nanotechnology - for the development of tiny aircraft that can be used during combat to provide real time images from a battlefield.

Due to the tiny size, enemy forces are unable to spot them in the air, nor can they be picked up by radar. The planes, which can be controlled from the ground using a mounted camera relaying images of where the plane is going, as well as images of what it can see, are small enough to fly into an open window of a building and send images back to troops nearby, for determination of how many troops are needed to overcome a force hiding inside.