TEL AVIV, Israel, March 11 (UPI) -- Israel Aerospace Industries, a major manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles, has unveiled a tilt-rotor drone dubbed "the Ghost" that weights just less than 9 pounds and is virtually silent.
That makes the aircraft ideal for stealthy surveillance. That could include tracking suspected militants marked for assassination by armed UAVs, helicopter gunships or F-16 strike jets using precision-guided munitions, a tactic used frequently by the Israelis against wanted Palestinian militants.
State-owned IAI, whose Malat Division developed the Ghost, says it's intended "for reconnaissance missions in urban settings," where many of the Israelis call "targeted killings" have taken place.
The new craft can take off and land vertically, which makes it adaptable in rugged combat terrain or deployment on warships.
The Ghost uses a pair of powered rotors mounted on rotating shafts at the tip of a fixed wing for loft and propulsion.
It combines the vertical lift capacity of a helicopter with the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft. The engines swivel for takeoff and landing, as well as for hovering.
Its battery-powered engines are extremely quiet, a crucial element if the craft is used to hover at low altitudes to observe possible targets that higher-flying conventional UAVs might not detect.
The Ghost has a range of around 2.5 miles, a flight endurance of six hours and speed of around 37 miles an hour.
With a wingspan of nearly 19 feet, it has a payload of 17.5 pounds and can carry day and night video cameras and a laser designator, which can be monitored on a console by the operator.
It's the second tilt-rotor UAV to be developed by IAI, flagship of Israel's high-tech defense industry. The Malat Division unveiled the Panther, a larger craft, in October. It has a take-off weight of about 138 pounds and a wingspan of 25 feet. It can stay airborne for six hours.
IAI also produces the Eitan, one of the world's largest UAVs, able to fly higher and longer than most drones.
The Eitan was unveiled in February 2010. It can remain aloft for 24 hours and fly as far as the Persian Gulf, putting Iran, deemed a strategic threat by Israel, within its reach.
The 4.5-ton, turboprop-powered craft, part of IAI's Heron family, has a wingspan of 85 feet, similar to that of a Boeing 737 airliner.
It carries a payload of up to one ton that includes advanced imaging, radar and mapping systems. It has a ceiling of 43,000 feet.