Iran on Monday unveiled a new aircraft which it claimed is the biggest drone capable of staying afloat for up to 30 hours. Iran's Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan said the reconnaissance and combat drone named Fotros has a range of 1,250 miles (2,000km) and could cover much of the Middle East including Israel. Iran said the Fotros is the biggest missile-equipped drone to be developed in the Islamic republic.

Quoting Mr Dehghan, Iran's official news agency IRNA termed Fotros as a key strategic addition to Iran's military capabilities. He said the drone was developed in spite of the tough international sanctions against Iran.

"Sanctions by enemies can't create an obstacle in the path of progress for our defense industries,'' IRNA quoted him as saying.

"The Fotros drone has an operational range of 2,000km and can fly at an altitude of 25,000 feet, with a flight time of 16 to 30 hours," Mr Dehghan said..

"This drone is able to carry out reconnaissance missions and carry air-to-surface rockets for combat operations,'' he said.

Iran had in September announced the development of a drone named Shahed-129 (Witness-129) which is reported to have a range of 1,700 km and could only remain afloat for 24 hours.

Shahed-129 was followed by the unveiling of a reconnaissance drone named Yasseer in the same month. Yasseer is said to be capable of flying for eight hours with a range of 200km and at an altitude of 4,500 meters.

Experts believe that Iran built Yasseer based on the US ScanEagle drone, as reports say Iranian military managed to capture one last December. Iran has also announced that it was producing another series of drones called Rad-85.

Since the 1980s Iran has been pursuing a military self-sufficiency programme, announcing frequent technological breakthroughs in military equipment development.