Thales UK today announces the maiden UK flight of the WATCHKEEPER unmanned air system (UAS) for surveillance and reconnaissance. A PDF press release with a screen capture of Watchkeeper (call sign CRONUS 150) from the Air traffic Control is here.

WATCHKEEPER flew for the first time in the UK on 14 April, taking off from dedicated facilities at Parc Aberporth in West Wales for a 20-minute flight. The Parc Aberporth facilities, managed by QinetiQ through the West Wales Unmanned Air vehicle (UAV) Centre, are the premier test facilities for UAVs in the UK.

The success of this first flight, which can be attributed to the combined efforts of the integrated Thales UK and Ministry of Defence (MoD) team, is the first milestone in a long-term programme to demonstrate that the WATCHKEEPER system meets the robust safety and airworthiness criteria required to fly UAVs initially on ranges and segregated airspace in the UK.

Thales is a global technology leader for the Aerospace and Space, Defence, Security and Transportation markets. In 2008, the company generated revenues of £10.2 billion (12.7 billion euros) with 68,000 employees in 50 countries. With its 25,000 engineers and researchers, Thales has a unique capability to design, develop and deploy equip¬ment, systems and services that meet the most complex security requirements. Thales has an exceptional international footprint, with operations around the world working with customers as local partners.