The Carter administration has sent formal notices to Congress that it intends to sell Egypt 12 pilotless reconnaissance aircraft, called drones, costing a total of about $30 million.

Congress must approves the sale of the drones, which will be equipped with cameras that Egypt could use to photograph Israel military deployments.

Israel, already has American-made drones, some of which were used during the 1973 Yom Kippur War as decoys to draw Egyptian fire from expensive anti-aircraft missiles.

The reconnaissance drones reduce the number of flights needed over heavily fortified areas, thus saving the lives of pilots which both countries have been short of in the past.

The specific weapon Egypt is expected to get, sources said yesterday, is a modified version of the Firebee that the United States used for the reconnaissance, with mixed success during the Vietnam war.

Built by Teledyne Ryan of San Diego, the Firebee was originally built as a target drone, but it can fly a preset pattern in its reconnaissance role or be guided by radio signals from the ground or from a piloted airplane.

In its reconnaissance role, the Firebee flies low over the area of prime military interest, flies back to a predetermined recovery spot and either lands there by parachute or is snatched in mid-air by helicopter.

Egypt already is getting the Air Force C-130 transport plane, which the United States in the past has used as the launching and control mother ship for Firebee reconnaissance drones.

Congressional sources said the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House International Relations Committee received letters Friday and yesterday about what weaponry President Carter intends to sell to Egypt.

The letters were classified and confidential.

One question the congressional committees are expected to address as they assess Carter's proposed arms sales is whether Egypt's reconnaissance drones could be turned into relatively crude cruise missiles by putting explosives rather than cameras in them.

Officials at Teledyne Ryan yesterday refused to confirm or deny that the Pentagon had contacted them about resuming production of the Firebee drone for Egypt.