A key milestone in the £899 million UK MoD project to develop the Watchkeeper Unmanned Air System has been reached on schedule. QinetiQ, working closely with other stakeholders, has delivered the necessary infrastructure and facilities at ParcAberporth, Ceredigion, South Wales, as part of its ongoing £5 M support contract. This means the Watchkeeper trials programme can commence there in the Autumn.

Thales, the Watchkeeper prime contractor, is now clear to migrate the trials programme to the UK by October 2009. Initial live flying elements of the operator training are expected to commence in March 2010 contributing to systems acceptance and deployment in October 2010.

QinetiQ plays an important role in many of the research, solution development and operational programmes for future unmanned systems across the land, air and sea domains, many of which are now the cornerstones of other pan-industry unmanned systems programmes. In addition to having developed and demonstrated critical aspects of solution autonomy, QinetiQ is now providing managed UAV services, delivering all important safety and release to service programmes, developing and integrating many of the vital sensing and communications solutions plus producing its own unmanned platforms.

With regards to Watchkeeper QinetiQ’s project manager Robert Walter stated, “This programme is expected to bring unique trials, development and test flight and certification capabilities to West Wales, which can be used by the MoD and a range of unmanned air systems manufacturers, suppliers and customers.” He added, “Their operation will lead to additional job opportunities as ParcAberporth becomes a centre of excellence for all future unmanned air vehicles.”