UAV completes first flight

Posted on 19 Apr 2010 by The Manufacturer

Thales UK announces the maiden UK flight of the Watchkeeper unmanned air system at Parc Aberporth, Wales.

Watchkeeper flew for the first time in the UK, taking off from dedicated facilities at Parc Aberporth in Wales for a 20-minute flight. The facilities, managed by QinetiQ through the West Wales Unmanned Air vehicle (UAV) Centre, are the premier test facilities for UAVs in the UK.

The success of the flight is the first milestone in a long-term programme to demonstrate that the Watchkeeper system meets the robust safety and airworthiness criteria required to fly UAVs initially on ranges and segregated airspace in the UK.

Watchkeeper is a muilti-sensor, all-weather unmanned air system that can remain airborne for over 16 hours in a single mission. It includes a high degree of automation, with automatic take-off and landing, and has a de-icing capability to expand its ability to operate in all weather and operational environment. Delivered in a dual-payload configuration, the system includes enhanced electro-optic/infrared sensors, with laser target designator, as well as an advanced I-Master synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator radar.

Commenting on the milestone, Alex Dorrian, CEO of Thales UK, said: “This is a momentous accomplishment in the Watchkeeper programme and just one of a number of flight trials scheduled over the coming months. This milestone reflects the years of hard work by Thales UK, the MoD and other parties since the contract was signed.”

Looking forward to the plans for the rest of the year, Dorrian added: “2010 is an important year for the programme as it will also see the opening of the Watchkeeper training facility based in Larkhill, and the continuation of the technical field trials at Parc Aberporth.”

Thales UK, as prime contractor for the Watchkeeper programme, will deliver equipment, training and facilities, with the capability being delivered to the MoD customer from late 2010. Production of the Watchkeeper system will take place at U-TacS (UAV Tactical Systems Ltd), the Thales UK and Elbit Systems joint company, based in Leicester.