Thales Watchkeeper successfully passes first system flight trial
Thales UK today announces the successful first system flight trials of the Watchkeeper unmanned air vehicle (UAV), with the autonomous flight taking place under the system guidance of the WATCHKEEPER ground control software and fully integrated within the ground control station (GCS).
These trials of the UAV, which operates with dual payloads, will continue into 2009, and will validate the key mission system capability of the Watchkeeper system.
This is another significant step forward in the Watchkeeper programme and follows closely from the first successful flight trials of the Watchkeeper air vehicle in April 2008 and the demonstration of the Watchkeeper Automatic Take-Off and landing (ATOL) capability in August 2008.
The control software has been produced by Thales UK at its Crawley facility. The GCS has been designed and manufactured in the UK by UAV Tactical Systems Ltd (U-TacS), the Thales UK/Elbit Systems joint company site in Leicester.
During the first successful flight trials at Elbit’s facilities in Israel, the Watchkeeper UAV was controlled by the Watchkeeper GCS using Thales-developed software and performed an automatic take-off and landing. This initial stage of systems trials will provide an essential link between the various sub-system level trials and the full Watchkeeper systems trials to be undertaken in the UK next year.
The Watchkeeper system test programme includes:
• System command and control of UAV from Watchkeeper GCS
• Initial assessment of system data link performance
• Dual payload installation
• Generation and exploitation of payload imagery (the ‘imagery chain’)
• Watchkeeper avionics system trials (IFF and airborne radio assessment)
• Further systems ATOLS assessment
• Electrical power system performance with dual payloads installed
Mark Barclay, Managing Director of Thales UK’s aerospace business, says: “This is another major step forward on the WATCHKEEPER programme and one of a number of trials that are scheduled over the coming months. We have made steady progress since the contract was signed in 2005 and I am particularly pleased that Thales and our external partners continue to deliver in line with the agreed customer schedule.”
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