Feeds

James Bond's autogyro revived by Brit spec-ops pilots

Whirly-wing 1930s protocopter 'ideal' for covert ops

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Farnborough Former British Army pilots, drawing on military experience carrying out covert surveillance with secret special-forces units, have decided to revive the autogyro - a long-lost aircraft design of the 1930s, probably most famous for its use in the James Bond movies.

The Little Nellie autogyro as used by James Bond, with designer Ken Wallis at the controls

One of only a few post-WWII flying autogyros.

British startup firm Gyrojet is exhibiting its planned designs at the Farnborough airshow this week, and the Reg whirlycraft and spook surveillance desk got the chance to chat with company executives.

Gyrojet's marketing material makes use of several key phrases which ring bells for those familiar with the history of the secret British Army unit formerly known as "14 Intelligence Company", aka "the Det(s)" during its time carrying out clandestine surveillance in the hard areas of Northern Ireland during the long troubles there.

The operators of 14 Int were selected from across the armed forces in much the same way as the SAS recruits, but far less well known even today. Unlike the SAS and SBS, 14 Int recruited women - for the simple and practical reason that it's difficult for an all-male covert ops team not to attract notice among a normal local population.

Though 14 Int operations and training focused mainly on car and foot operations in strongly republican areas, operators also made much use of covert airborne surveillance. An operator would normally be assigned the use of an aircraft from 5 Regiment Army Air Corps, assigned to "Manned Airborne Surveillance".

A helicopter or specially fitted fixed-wing Islander aircraft could lurk miles away, usually so far off that the target individuals would be unaware of its presence. A long-ranging, stabilised imaging scope - often an antitank targeting display pressed into surveillance use in the early days - would be used by the special operator to track a person or car of interest in cooperation with covert ground units.

"A lot of us [at Gyrojet] were formerly with 5 Regiment," says marketing director James Robb. "We're all helicopter or Islander types."

According to Robb, a fixed-wing aircraft such as the Islander can do a good job at manned covert surveillance in open or rural environments. But where it can't sit far away looking at a slant - as where the target is in an urban or built-up area - it must stay within a tightly limited piece of sky overhead so as to maintain line of sight.

As a fixed-wing aircraft can't realistically go much slower than say 50 knots, this means the aircraft is continually making hard turns. This is uncomfortable for the crew, hard on the aircraft, and may mean that the tracking scope can't be held easily on the target. In some locations where there are a lot of obstructions around the place to be watched, a fixed-wing plane simply can't turn tightly enough to maintain line of sight at all.

A helicopter has no such problems, being able if required to simply go into a stationary hover. But helicopters are hugely more expensive than planes, needing complex and expensive transmissions to connect powerful engines to their rotors. Furthermore, constant hovering is hard on a copter. All in all, using helicopters for surveillance is costly and difficult.

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.