French company Tecknisolar has developed a family of solar powered unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) which, it claims, are made almost totally stealthy by means of a resin coating.

Company founder and chief executive Pascal Barguirdjian says: "Our solar-powered, high-altitude, long-endurance UAV - La Libellule [dragonfly] - was designed as a poor-man's satellite."

The UAVs have wingspans of 6-25m (20-80ft) - the smaller UAVs are hand-launched - and carry 2-8kg (4.5-18lb) payloads. "They are silent, controlled by a ground station, have heated wings for de-icing and have no problem at night because the power source switches to the battery, or, if the aircraft is flying above 46,000ft, the solar panels use the available light," says Barguirdjian.

The United Arab Emirates army is negotiating for Tecknisolar's Der, a 2.5kg hand- launched mini UAV. The deal would be worth around €22,800 ($21,600). Der is stored in a solar-panel equipped backpack to recharge the UAV while the operator carries it. Real-time images from the UAV can be viewed on a screen in the backpack, or on a helmet display.

Source: Flight International