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US tests unmanned seaplane

world Updated: Dec 06, 2007 12:13 IST

Engineers from the University of Michigan have successfully tested an unmanned seaplane they developed that can initiate and perform its own takeoffs and landings on water.

The 7-feet wingspan autonomous craft "Flying Fish" is believed to be the first seaplane that can initiate and perform its own takeoffs and landings on water, the university said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), of the US Department of Defence has funded the project.

The robotic seaplane is designed to advance the agency's "persistent ocean surveillance" programme.

The researchers recently returned from sea trials off the coast of Monterey in California, where they demonstrated the craft's capability to DARPA officials.

"The vehicle did very well," said Hans Van Sumeren, associate director of the Unmanned Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratories. "To take off and land in the water was a big effort. We did it 22 times."

The name of the plane, Flying Fish, is an inspiration from sea birds. The plane is about the size of a large pelican, with Global Positioning System onboard.

Next, the team plans to outfit the plane with solar power and add more sensors.