Feeds

UK's Watchkeeper drone 'can see footprints through cloud'

Also 'keep off the grass' signs, apparently

Top three mobile application threats

Farnborough UK military robot spyplanes due to be fielded in Afghanistan within two years are fitted with radar so sensitive, according to its makers, that it can detect not only individual people moving about on the ground - but even the footprints they leave in the dirt.

The Watchkeeper in Israel, where most of the tests thus far have taken place. Credit: Thales

Now with footprint-following mode.

The spyplane in question is the (in)famous Watchkeeper now under development by Thales UK for the Royal Artillery's surveillance-drone units. Watchkeeper is a modified version of the Israeli Hermes 450 with added French and British bits and pieces. For now the British army are using ordinary Hermes 450s leased via Thales in Afghanistan, the embarrassing "Phoenix" drone having been deep-sixed without regret in 2008.

Watchkeeper actually made its first flight in 2008, but didn't enter British skies until this year. Thales flying spyrobot chief Nick Miller, briefing reporters at the Farnborough airshow today, said that Watchkeepers will start being handed to the MoD next year and following government testing will begin to replace Hermes 450s in Afghanistan gradually.

Major Matt Moore of the Royal Artillery also gave a rundown on Hermes 450 operations at the moment in Iraq, showing how the aerial spy drones can often finger gunmen and bomb-planters before they act - either warning nearby Coalition ground forces of danger, or calling in a strike from armed aircraft.

One airborne spy-robot buzzword du jour at the moment seems to be "pattern of life" - in which soldiers operating airborne spyeyes become familiar with ordinary activity around villages etc, so that oddities such as groups of people on the move at night are easily picked out for further investigation.

Another is "ISTAR* Soak", where an area of interest is saturated with constant spyeye coverage for a period - a good way to learn about pattern of life, and the only way for "drinking straw" sensors like the Hermes' electro-optical camera to have much chance of finding enemies without being given a clue where they are first.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Most Americans doubt Big Bang, not too sure about evolution, climate change – survey
Science no match for religion, politics, business interests
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
LOHAN and the amazing technicolor spaceplane
Our Vulture 2 livery is wrapped, and it's les noix du mutt
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
R.I.P. LADEE: Probe smashes into lunar surface at 3,600mph
Swan dive signs off successful science mission
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Dragon capsule arrives at space station for Easter Sunday delivery
SpaceX reports Falcon booster made controlled touchdown in ocean
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.