The Thales Group released a video highlighting the capabilities of their Watchkeeper WK450 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which they are delivering to the British Army. The program, which has experienced significant delays, recently received some much welcomed news when the U.K. Military Aviation Authority (MAA) granted the program a Statement of Type Design Assurance (STDA). This approval means that Watchkeeper and its accompanying software has achieved a satisfactory level of safety. “It is the result of close collaboration between the MoD [U.K. Ministry of Defence] and Thales U.K., and the culmination of a significant amount of work to build a comprehensive safety case,” said Eddie Awang, Vice President of Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance at Thales U.K. The STDA marks another step toward the Watchkeeper being granted a Release To Service (RTS) by the U.K. Ministry of Defence. “The issue of a Statement of Type Design Assurance from the MAA is a major milestone for the Watchkeeper program, and a first for a UAV program in the U.K.” said Awang.
Watchkeeper is a joint collaboration between Thales Group and Elbit Systems. It is based off of the Elbit Hermes 450, which has seen over 70,000 service hours with the British Army in Afghanistan. Watchkeeper carries an electro-optical/infrared sensor, prominently visible in this video.