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US Army unveils 1.8 gigapixel camera helicopter drone
January 2, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
New helicopter-style drones with 1.8 gigapixel colour cameras are being developed by the US Army.
The army said the technology promised "an unprecedented capability to track and monitor activity on the ground".
A statement added that three of the sensor-equipped drones were due to go into service in Afghanistan in either May or June.
Boeing built the first drones, but other firms can bid to manufacture others.
"These aircraft will deploy for up to one full year as a way to harness lessons learned and funnel them into a program of record," said Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Munster, product manager at the US Army's Unmanned Aerial System Modernization unit.
The A160 Hummingbird systems are capable of vertical take-off, meaning access to a runway is not necessary.
The army also confirmed that they have hovering capabilities - something its existing unmanned aircaft lack.
Test flights will be carried out in Arizona at the start of the year before they are shipped to the Middle East.
The drones will take advantage of the Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Imaging System first deployed earlier this year.
The Argus-IS's acronym was chosen to recall Argus Panoptes - the one-hundred-eyed-giant of Greek mythology.
The technology is based on a 1.8 gigapixel camera - the largest video sensor used in tactical missions.
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