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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 November, 2003, 00:01 GMT
Israeli robot helicopter stolen
Steadicopter pilotless helicopter (image: Steadicopter)
Israel is a market leader in the production of drones
An Israeli company developing a state-of-the-art pilotless helicopter has blamed the theft of its prototype at the weekend on industrial espionage.

The helicopter, which weighs 14 kilos (30 pounds) and is 1.5 metres (five feet) long, was snatched by burglars at Steadicopter's Kefar Maccabi plant.

It had just completed its final test flights, the company said on Tuesday.

The burglars took no money or computer software during the break-in, leading the company to suspect espionage.

"We're convinced that the thief was working for our competitors because he went directly to the helicopter's location and broke only the guard-rails to that room," said Steadicopter Chief Executive Officer Tuvya Segal.

Mr Segal said the helicopter was unique in that it was capable of independent flying without remote control.

"Many companies have tried but none of their tests worked," he said.

Police took fingerprints at the plant as an investigation got under way.

Correspondents note that Israel has long been a world leader in developing pilotless reconnaissance aircraft and its Pioneer drone is currently in service with US forces in Iraq.

Its new helicopter features vertical take-off and the ability to hover.

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