British robot set for Bosnia spy mission: French Army wants to use a pilotless plane built in the UK to monitor Muslim safe areas

A BRITISH robot reconnaissance plane could soon go into action in Bosnia - with the French Army.

The small pilotless plane was developed in just a year and will enable the French to oversee large areas with fewer troops, exploiting the West's biggest advantage over the local militias - technology.

The British Army is committed to a much more expensive system, Phoenix, designed in 1985 and not due in service until 1995. It takes six weeks to train soldiers to use the French Army system, whereas it could take six months to learn to use Phoenix.

The French Army first tried the British 'toy plane', which they call Mart (Mini Avion de Reconnaissance de Telepilote), in the Gulf in 1991. They were so impressed that they recently invited experts from UN headquarters in Zagreb to trials in the south of France and Champagne region, where the terrain is similar to Bosnia. The UN team has sent its report to New York where the final decision will be made, but the French are already preparing to send the Mart section of 6th Artillery Regiment to Bosnia.

The trials showed that the spy plane will extend a French battalion's coverage by 30 miles - the sort of coverage normally associated with a division of 20,000 troops. The French have a 1,900- strong battalion based in north- west Bosnia and 800 troops in Sarajevo. The plane's uses could include monitoring the position of stockpiled weapons and route reconnaissance to prevent ambushes, which have occurred recently.

The firm that builds the system, Laserlink of Maidenhead, has tried to interest the Ministry of Defence, but yesterday it received a letter from Jonathan Aitken, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, saying that the MoD was 'aware of the system they had to offer' but that the requirement for an Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) is to be met by the GEC-Marconi Phoenix system.

Mart costs just pounds 3m for 12 of the small, propeller-driven planes, two launchers and two ground stations where the controller can see what the plane is seeing in 'real-time'. He can zoom in on areas of interest and, if he sees anything, can take a print with the exact date, time, height and location recorded. Mart is powered by a two-cylinder 342cc engine and carries two cameras, one pointing forwards and a moveable one that points downwards. The cameras can be any combination of colour or black and white TV, low-light television or infra-red which reacts to heat. At night, Mart would usually have the low-light TV facing forward and the infra-red downward.

The cost of the much more expensive Phoenix is being kept confidential but the Independent understands that the pilotless planes cost pounds 250,000 each, a launcher more than pounds 1m and a ground station pounds 4m.

UN forces in Bosnia are being doubled, from about 7,000 to more than 15,000, to oversee the six UN 'safe areas' for Muslims. None of the extra troops will be British, and it is not certain whether the French will send more. The UN already has satellites and manned aircraft over Bosnia but the 'toy plane' will give an army colonel his own very precise source of information.

By spying ahead, the plane also reduces the risk to ground troops. And if the locals try to shoot down Mart it does not matter. Expensive aircraft and irreplaceable pilots and soldiers are not put at risk.

Mike Way, the project co-ordinator, said yesterday: 'It took a year to develop. A lot of it was off- the-shelf and a lot of it we tested and built ourselves.'

(Photograph omitted)

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
News
Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives his annual televised question-and-answer session
peopleBizarre TV claim
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit