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Tuesday, August 18, 1998 Published at 17:38 GMT 18:38 UK


One of our 'robot' planes is missing

Aerosonde unmanned plane: Lost over Atlantic

An attempt to send the world's first unmanned aircraft across the Atlantic looks to have failed.

The tiny Aerosonde Phase 1 satellite-controlled aircraft - costing £15,000 - was due to land on the Scottish island of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides at 1300 BST.

Scientists said it would be considered lost if there was no sign of it by 1800 BST.

They were hoping to make radio contact with the Aerosonde, which set off from St John's in Newfoundland, Canada at 1100 BST on Monday, to guide it down by joystick.

[ image: The first of three attempts]
The first of three attempts
The plane is one of a squadron developed as part of a reconnaissance project designed to improve weather forecasting.

Each plane weighs just 30lbs and carries an on-board computer capable of measuring wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, air pressure and other meteorological data.

They were developed by the American aerospace research company Insitu, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and a private Australian firm.

The record attempt ran into trouble earlier this year when the Irish Aviation Authority refused the Aerosondes permission to land in Ireland.

It was salvaged when officials in the UK agreed to provide a landing site in the Outer Hebrides.

This is the first of three attempts to send an unmanned aircraft across the Atlantic.

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Unmanned planes bid for first Atlantic crossing

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