FORT BENNING, Ga. (AP) -- Military officials here admit flying saucers have taken to the skies.
The U.S. Army has been test-flying the CYPHER Unmanned Aerial Vehicle -- a doughnut-shaped aircraft -- for the past six years at this military post just outside of Columbus, Georgia.
CYPHER uses two sets of rotating blades that are mounted in the aircraft's center to propel the machine, giving the aircraft its whirring sound and UFO look.
The aircraft's design allows it to hover over an area for as long as the fuel lasts. That capability distinguishes it from other unmanned aircraft currently being tested, said Mike Barnes, project director at the military post.
CYPHER, which earned its name because of its ability to decode underground structures and secret tunnels, was created by Sikorsky Aircraft Inc. in Los Angeles.
Inside the CYPHER, a video camera and a navigation computer -- similar to those used in cruise missiles -- would allow the military to survey enemy territory and areas attacked by poison gas or other hazardous weapons.
The aircraft could also be used to drop off supplies to soldiers or disperse unruly crowds without subjecting pilots to danger, said test pilot Pvt. Brent Satterfield of Fort McClellan, Alabama.
If Army officials in Washington approve the aircraft, CYPHER engineers say they can build it in a variety of sizes -- from a 40-pound model that can be carried in a backpack to the size of a cargo helicopter.
During a recent test of a piloted prototype, Spc. Jacob Terrell, 21, flew the CYPHER over a crowd of cardboard dummies and hovered 150 feet above the ground before releasing canisters of smoke, simulating tear gas.
"It was just like a computer game. It's extremely easy to fly," Terrell said.
Original file name: CNI - Saucer mil test.final
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