Libyan Rebels Flying High With Minidrone

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Now that Libyan rebels have seized control of Tripoli and spooked Moammar Gadhafi so much that he left behind his coveted Condoleezza Rice scrapbook, here's a device the tech-savvy rebels used to bring down their former dictator.

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As is often the case in revolutions, cash-strapped rebels relied on what they had and could find, cobbling together an artillery of salvaged weapons and a ragtag fleet of machine gun-mounted trucks reinforced with homemade armour plates. But secretly, they were also is possession of some high-tech weaponry: a $120,000 Aeryon Scout surveillance drone.

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Canadian defence firm, Aeryon Labs, announced on Tuesday that it discreetly supplied rebel forces with the small drone. Small enough to pack into a rebel's backpack or suitcase, the 3-pound, four-rotor camera-mounted helicopter operates using a map-based screen interface, rather than a joystick. Operators simply pressed on the system's touchscreen tablet map and that's where the drone flew.

After only a day and a half of training, the rebels launched the Scout, using it day and night to capture detailed real time images and videos of targets.

"The system has been operating perfectly, with no incidents – quite impressive for those familiar with the statistics of other small UAVs in operational theatres," Charles Barlow, president of Zariba Security, said in an Aeryon press release.

Besides brokering the drone's purchase, Barlow not only delivered it personally, for two days, he also helped train rebel operators in Misurata while under heavy artillery fire.

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David Kroetsch, CEO and founder of Aeryon Labs, told the New York Times he was approached by a representative of the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC) in June, after members of the rebel group found his company's website and took interest in the drone.

“They knew that they needed air support of some kind because they were fighting blind on the ground,” Kroetsch said. “But they couldn’t afford helicopters.”

Credit: Aeryon Labs

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