Watchkeeper ready for first UK flights

The Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicle due to go into service with UK armed forces in 2010 will take to skies over the west coast of Wales towards the end of this year.

The latest series of trials of Watchkeeper and its various sub-systems will be the first in Britain for the vehicle and follow completion in June of what prime contractor Thales UK describes as “a key set of inaugural flights” in Israel.

The demonstration gave the Ministry of Defence the opportunity to see the full system and its control and communications components in action. This included flights from a semi-prepared landing strip with rough ground and obstacles designed to show that Watchkeeper is not restricted to conventional airfields.

Thales said that with infrastructure and facilities at the Parc Aberporth technology centre the programme will begin transfer to the UK with flight tests beginning in late 2009. In parallel, work will continue on payloads, software, flight management and ground systems.

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