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Photos: Unmanned 'spy in the sky' takes off

Look, no hands...
By Andy McCue, Contributor on
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1 of 3 Andy McCue/ZDNET

Look, no hands...

The UK Ministry of Defence's Watchkeeper programme is aiming to develop an unmanned 'spy in the sky' plane that will provide the armed forces with vital intelligence and surveillance capability by 2010.

A ground crew of just two is required to operate the Watchkeeper unmanned air vehicle (UAV). One Watchkeeper operator controls the mission, with the other tracking the information being fed from the UAV sensors. The information generated by this technology allows commanders to detect, identify and track targets without the need to deploy troops into potentially sensitive or dangerous areas, and also provides the ability to loiter while a target is engaged.

The system is being built by Thales and Elbit Systems.

Photo Credit: Thales

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2 of 3 Andy McCue/ZDNET

A key milestone has just been passed in the Watchkeeper programme with the validation of Thales' automatic take-off and landing system, called Magic Atols.

Automated take-off and landing flights of the Watchkeeper UAV using the system were successfully performed at Megiddo airfield in northern Israel at the end of July.

Photo Credit: Thales

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3 of 3 Andy McCue/ZDNET

Mark Barclay, MD of Thales UK's aerospace business, said in a statement: "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."

Photo Credit: Thales

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