Top secret UAV Sprite helicopter has great potential

It has a body diameter of less than 26 inches, and is described as looking like something out of science fiction. It's been developed with government support in 'considerable secrecy'.

Most important, it is regarded as having 'exciting potential' for battlefield surveillance and a wide range of other military and civil uses. A fully engineered model - for demonstration trials and evaluation — had been built at White Waltham, a little-known airfield in the British county of Berkshire.

The Sprite is a highly manoeuvrable air vehicle, controlled by radio command, which can transmit television pictures and other information back to the ground. Among other things, it is also suitable for police work, such as crowd control or surveillance.

The tiny dimensions of the craft mean that it would be far more difficult to detect than other remotely piloted vehicles or manned surveillance craft. Radar, thermal, noise and optical signatures are all reduced to a minimum.

The Sprite can fly for two-and-a-half hours, operating at a speed of 110 kmph. The basic sensor pack contained a stabilised TV camera with a zoom lens. Alternative payloads could include an infrared imager, laser target designator, chemical sensors, electronic intelligence, electronic counter measures, searchlight and loudhailer.