Naval Air: November 17, 2001


British Aerospace is converting three Eagle-150 light aircraft into unmanned recon drones for Malaysia. The aircraft, which has a single engine and two seats, was picked for its light weight and five-hour endurance. It costs about $3 million each to modify the aircraft, providing them with a 360-degree turret mounted surveillance system (daylight television, long-range spotter, and infrared) and remote controls. The aircraft can operate in three modes, and change between modes on command. The modes are pre-programmed (flying from point to point by GPS), redirected in flight (where a pre-programmed course is reprogrammed while the aircraft is airborne), and remotely-controlled (where a ground-based pilot can take direct control). The Malaysians want to use the aircraft for low-cost ocean surveillance, and plan to buy more if the first three actually work.--Stephen V Cole


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