Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

Unmanned Warrior - Wales watching

7 October 2016
Yesterday West Wales Airport was the focus for the first reception of official visitors to the series of demonstrations which is Unmanned Warrior.

Commodore James Morley, tricked out, as we all were, in becoming yellow safety jackets, was led with fifty or so visitors around the modern site by almost as many Thales personnel.

Or so it seemed.

We were enthusiastically told the good news that the previous day the Watchkeeper UAV, based much of the time here in Aberporth, had started its maritime career well.

Launched at dawn it helped foil a pirate attack on our MV Northern River stooge ship and then capture a smuggler who was handed goods offshore from another boat ran onto the beach and escaped into the car park, only to be apprehended as he drove off.

Watchkeeper followed him, at an invisible distance, at every stage. 

A simulated Operations Room was presented to us in a corner of a hangar and visitors were able to see on a large screen what the UAV was chasing and plotting.

An RN Ops Team were there in there front row ready to task it onward. 

And there was robot co-operation - the smaller UAV manufacturer Blue Bear had their Blackstart light observation UAV in the air too, with monitoring and control also linked back to the Ops Room.

 Praise was reserved for the I-Master radar which Watchkeeper carries. 

This we were told is widely regarded as one of the best small radars developed, certainly for land use.

New algorithms for flight over the sea are being developed (because the sea's lumps are not static, like rocks and hills) but these two days of trial have shown the basics working out well.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the design is the ISO container which carries two of the birds caged in a sort of flat pack stowage.

The UAVs can be winched out and bolted together ready to go in minutes (twelve is the record) and, with testing and system links, is ready to set off on a full spectrum mission two hours from arrival at launch point. 

A control container, a mobile Ops Room and support unit go too, making a convoy of three or four trailers taking to the road for deployment.

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.