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February 23, 2003

Israeli spy drone the size of a credit card
JERUSALEM - Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) is developing a credit card-sized surveillance drone that transmits real-time images back to field commanders, a company official confirmed yesterday.

The 100-g drone was conceived by students at Israel's Technion Institute, who then approached IAI with the idea, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The drone is still in the experimental stages and IAI is exploring its feasibility, he said.

In testing, the plane has flown for 20 minutes at a time, the official said. It can carry a lightweight camera and transmit images to a laptop or a palm-sized computer.

The miniature plane can be launched by hand and does not need wheels to land. It is almost invisible from the ground, and cannot be detected by radar, the Haaretz daily said.

The drone could be operational within two to five years, the IAI official said.

Haaretz said the United States had already developed its own mini drones and could use them in any war against Iraq.

IAI has long specialised in manufacturing battlefield drones which it sells to France, Turkey and South Korea, among other countries.--AP, AFP