UK’s Watchkeeper UAV inches towards release to service

The British Army’s Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) has received a Statement of Type Design Assurance (STDA) from the UK Military Aviation Authority (MAA), it was announced on 7 October.

While falling short of a full Release to Service (RTS), the announcement is welcome news for the delayed programme – originally intended to enter service in 2010.

According to Thales, the STDA “provides assurance that the Watchkeeper air vehicle and software has reached an acceptable level for design safety and integrity to meet the current stage of the system’s development.” While the STDA is a step in the right direction, Watchkeeper will not be authorised to fly in the military environment until it gains RTS status.

Speaking to IHS Jane’s , a UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson stated: “The release-to-service process, including airworthiness certification, is taking longer than originally expected and there is currently no set date for approval. The MoD and Thales UK are working closely together to expedite the process. As the first large unmanned air system to fly in UK airspace, Watchkeeper is breaking new ground and it is essential that the process is thorough.”

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