Thales Conducts Watchkeeper UAS Sortie in UK Civil Airspace

Posted on October 23, 2015 James Hinds Aerospace

Thales Group was able to successfully fly their Watchkeeper unmanned aircraft system for the first time in controlled civil airspace.The test was conducted in the UK, and was part of Project Claire - a joint initiative featuring Thales, NATS, the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory NLR, the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It is funded by the SESAR joint undertaking. The test itself involved the UAS flying side-by-side with a manned aircraft. The remote controlled aircraft flew around for approximately one hour. It was piloted by Thales staff based at West Wales Airport, with NATS controlling it path.

The landmark flight made the Watchkeeper the first ever UAS to fly in controlled civil airspace, which delighted all the parties involved. It did what it had to do, showing that it can follow the British Watchkeeper program and meet the requirements of the French and Polish UAS programs. "Thales is providing the first and only, completely unmanned aircraft system that is certified to fly through non-segregated airspace,” said Thales Defence Mission Systems executive vice-president Pierre Eric Pommellet. “Watchkeeper is a uniquely capable system, which is leading the way in the evolution and regulation of unmanned aircraft systems."

A demand for UAS’s will require it to one day be able to fly in civil airspace. Many orders for these unmanned planes will be placed for commercial, search and rescue, homeland security tasks, critical infrastructure and border protection purposes. This test hopes to pave the way to have UAS flights allowed in UK airspace by the year 2020. Things that may prevent this include possible remote control malfunctions, or a possible emergency situation where a pilot would need to take over control.

The UAS will continue to be tested in these so called “danger areas” to see if it can overcome those obstacles, plus many more. Via our proprietary website ASAP AM Spares, ASAP Semiconductor is a leading distributor of Thales products. Prospective customers can browse our inclusive inventory of hard-to-find obsolete and current parts at If you are interested in a part, please feel free to contact our knowledgeable sales staff at or call 1-714-705-4780 for a quote.

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