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Thales Watchkeeper completes major flight trials milestone

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: 13 August, 2009  (Application Story)
Watchkeeper completes major flight trials milestone

Thales UK is pleased to announce that the Watchkeeper unmanned air system (UAS) successfully completed a key set of inaugural flights in June 2009, which will allow the system to progress to a series of ground system and flight trials in the UK. These will take place at Parc Aberporth in West Wales and will start in late 2009. The necessary infrastructure and facilities at Parc Aberporth are ready and in place, and the Watchkeeperprogramme will now begin the transfer to the UK.

The flight trials undertaken in June represent a significant technical achievement for the Watchkeeperprogramme, with all elements of the system and sub-system being demonstrated to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), including:

+ Full air vehicle system
+ Watchkeeperdata links
+ Radar controlled Automatic Take-Off and Landing System (ATOLS)
+ Electro Optic (EO) / Infrared (IR) and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) / Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) Radar payloads
+ Ground control station software
+ Autonomous Systems Flight Control and Video Imagery downlink

In parallel to the flight trials, work continues with the development of payloads, software, flight management and ground infrastructure systems.

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Also, flight trials have taken place from a semi-prepared landing strip with rough ground and obstacles, demonstrating an ability to operate from open fields with minimum preparation. This is an important operational capability as the Watchkeepersystem is not restricted to conventional airfields.

Alex Dorrian, Thales UK’s CEO, says: “This is another landmark achievement for the Watchkeeperprogramme and just one of a number of trials that are scheduled over the coming months. We have made good progress following the WATCHKEEPER maiden flight on 16 April 2008 and obviously our intention is to continue working closely with the UAS Project Team and our partners in delivering the next phase of the programme.”
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