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UK to test world's first pilotless fighter by 2013

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The Mantis pilotless fighter plane. A BAE photo

LONDON (PTI): Pilotless fighter planes have come a step closer to reality as British aerospace major BAE Systems revealed that it would test such a new fighter jet next year.

It is not a drone, but rather a robotic plane with a far wider range of equipment and capabilities, the company said.

The company is set to unveil a new super-fighter which can fly on its own for 24 hours with no cockpit and no human on board, The Daily Mail reported.

If all goes as planned, the artificial intelligence could mean the end of fighter pilots in the UK and bring down the curtain on conventional aircraft like the F-35.

And the robotic fighter plane christened 'the Mantis' will be making its first flight in 2013 over Britain, as it is tested to see if it works.

BAE even claims that the technology could one day be used to pilot commercial jets in a similar way to driverless trains now.

The Mail said the pilotless plane is a joint project between the British Ministry of Defence and the French government and is worth around 40 million pounds.

BAE has said it is perfect for 'dull, dirty or dangerous' missions.

The Mantis can do the surveillance work of four helicopters, find its own targets and deliver deadly missiles, all without the aid of a crew on board.

Flights will cover 1207 kms and it will travel up to 15,000 ft above the Irish sea during tests.

According to BAE systems it will have an 'electronic eye', or cockpit mounted camera, so that a flight test observer and a supervisor can watch what is happening on the ground on computers.

They will remotely control the takeoff and landing but once in the air the craft flies itself, although the Mantis does have an infra-red camera so that it can land itself in an emergency.

There are expected to be 20 test flights, each lasting around three hours.

One fully operational it will be able to reach 60,000ft and carries surveillance equipment so advanced it can decrypt and listen to mobile phone messages instantly in mid-air.

It had been feared that cuts the Ministry of Defence could shelve Mantis, but the project now appears to be going ahead.


UK  Fighter Aircraft  BAE  
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