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United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Spy establishment sent packing

Out of political principle, a Scottish manufacturer of micro wind turbines has snubbed a deal that could have placed its technology at the forefront of spy surveillance for the US military. Renewable Devices was approached by a maker of drones (remote-controlled small aircraft) for US defence and NASA, according to a report in the Sunday Herald newspaper. The deal was potentially hugely lucrative. The un-named American suitor did not just want Renewable Devices' plastic "ring diffuser" technology, which prevents noisy turbulence at the blade tips. It wanted to pay an undisclosed sum for the entire 20-strong company.

"One thing I do know is that once you start painting things green and selling them to the army you are taking in millions," co-owner Charlie Silverton told the newspaper. The purchase offer was taken to the company's staff and they voted no. "There are people here from all kinds of businesses, engineers from the nuclear industry or from arms, and two who built bikes," Silverton told the Herald. "They said that they didn't want to go back to that kind of life." Renewable Devices is no longer commenting on the deal.

Unmanned craft -- for surveillance in combat zones or communications such as broadband -- are made by several US companies including California's AeroVironment, once prominent in the wind industry. Renewable Devices' 1.5 kW Swift turbines are for rooftops and produce less than 35 db and little vibration, important traits given the siting. The company, with £9.2 million in pending orders, is launching a Swiflet 1 kW machine this year. And it also hopes to up production from 200 turbines in 2005 to 2000.

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