Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thales's WATCHKEEPER programme successfully passes flight trials for automatic take-off and landing

Thales's WATCHKEEPER programme successfully passes flight trials for automatic take-off and landing

12 August 2008
Thales UK today confirms a further key milestone for the WATCHKEEPER programme has been met, with the validation of Thales's automatic take-off and landing system, MAGIC ATOLS.
This trial is one of a comprehensive set of trials taking place over the next year and follows on from the first successful flight trials of the WATCHKEEPER unmanned air vehicle (UAV) in April 2008.

On 23 July 2008 automated take-off and landing flights of the WATCHKEEPER UAV using Thales's MAGIC ATOLS were successfully performed and validated in the presence of the UK Ministry of Defence at Megido airfield in northern Israel. The WATCHKEEPER system has been designed for automatic take-off and landing, without the need for pilots during this phase.

Mark Barclay, Managing Director of Thales UK's aerospace business, witnessed the demonstration flights and commented: "This is a major step forward on the WATCHKEEPER programme and one of a number of trials that are scheduled over the forthcoming months. The MAGIC ATOLS system controlled the take-off and landing of several of the WATCHKEEPER air vehicle flights without the need for GPS. I was pleased to have the opportunity to be present on the day and the success of this demonstration is completely due to the close co-operation of the Thales and Elbit teams on the programme."

Thales's MAGIC ATOLS is an accurate, automatic, compact system ensuring maximum safety, day, night, and in all weather conditions during the critical take-off and landing phases of fixed-wing UAV operations. It is GPS independent. WATCHKEEPER air vehicles have both a MAGIC ATOLS and a GPS-based system to give redundancy in automated take-off and recovery eliminating the need for pilot skills.

The MAGIC ATOLS system has a non-intrusive standalone architecture ensuring a quick and simple integration into any existing type of UAV system. In addition, the reduced logistic footprint permits a quick and easy deployment and is suitable for land force operations.

Notes to editors

WATCHKEEPER will provide the UK armed forces with an essential Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability, and will be a key component of the UK's network enabled capability (NEC). Thales UK, as Prime Contractor for the WATCHKEEPER programme, will deliver equipment, training and facilities, with the capability planned to enter service from 2010.

Production of the WATCHKEEPER system will take place at U-TacS (UAV Tactical Systems Ltd), the Thales UK and Elbit Systems joint company, based in Leicester.

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