UK-built unmanned air system gets the nod from aviation authority

Posted on 8 Oct 2013
The European drone Watchkeeper has taken a step closer to approval for use in military theatre. Image courtesy of Richard Seymour.

The Watchkeeper Unmanned Air System, designed and built by Thales UK, has received a Statement of Type Design Assurance from the Military Aviation Authority, paving the way for commercial manufacture.

The statement of type design assurance (STDA) is formal assurance that the Watchkeeper air vehicle and software has reached an acceptable level for design safety and integrity to meet the current stage of the system’s development, Thales UK says.

The STDA is a key component of the process that allows the UK’s Ministry of Defence to continue towards the initial Release To Service, the formal approval stage for use in military theatre.

The assurance in effect is a passport for the unmanned system or UAS to perform military flying globally in appropriate airspace.

Watchkeeper is the first UAS to receive such an STDA from the UK’s Military Aviation Authority, and Thales UK says this represents a major step forward for the acceptance of UASs in the airspace environment.

“The issue of a Statement of Type Design Assurance from the MAA is a major milestone for the Watchkeeper programme, and a first for a UAS programme in the UK,” said Eddie Awang, vice president of Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance at Thales UK.

“It is the result of close collaboration between the MoD and Thales UK, and the culmination of a significant amount of work to build a comprehensive safety case.”

The MAA is the independent regulatory authority responsible for all aspects of military air safety, and was formed in 2010 following the recommendations of the Haddon-Cave report.

To see Watchkeeper in the air, click this link www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ihMr5j8M98