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'World's smallest aircraft' on display at show

"It is the smallest aircraft in the world," declares Martyn Cowley of Aerovironment about the Black Widow unmanned aerial vehicle, on display at the Paris air show.

Anyone who wants to see the 15cm (6in) wingspan aircraft, it has been on display at the CAC Systemes stand all week after winning an award for innovation at the Shephard Press unmanned vehicles conference, held immediately before the air show.

Developed under contract to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Black Widow weighs only 60g and is designed to reconnaissance missions up to 4km (2.5mi).

"The heaviest thing is its battery which takes up two-thirds of the weight," says Cowley. "A 2g video camera broadcasts images back to a 6.5kg ground station, which can be carried in a manpack."

Cowley describes the Black Widow as an "engineering challenge" but said they had proved that micro UAVs work.

"Even a year ago people not believe they were credible but on 2 March we flew the latest version of the Black Widow," he says.

"However, we are a few years away from a mature system.

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