Feeds

Blighty's expensive Watchkeeper spy-drone in further delays

Extra bonuses: It's unarmed and needs Israeli support

The next step in data security

The troubled, extremely expensive Watchkeeper project intended to supply unmanned surveillance aircraft to the Royal Artillery has hit further technical delays. The first robot spyplanes should have been delivered in February - eight months later than the original contract called for - but they will now arrive "toward year's end".

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

Gets off the ground by burning money

Aviation Week reports on the new slippage in Watchkeeper's delivery date, which was revealed by executives from contractor Thales during a discussion of the company's 2010 performance.

According to Av Week the Thales execs claimed that the new difficulties had previously been revealed "in a report issued by Britain’s National Audit Office and have now been resolved".

However, the last NAO report to mention Watchkeeper, the 2010 Defence Major Projects Report issued last October, lists the Watchkeeper's in-service date as February 2011 - noting that this represents a further two-month day from the previous year's forecast (when the project began in 2005 it was planned that the first aircraft would be delivered last June).

According to the NAO, the Watchkeeper problems result from "technical difficulties". The audit office noted that almost every area of the project seemed to be in trouble, saying "the Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicle has the most lines of development assessed as ‘At risk’ (six, with only Doctrine and Organisation assessed as ‘To be met’)".

Watchkeeper is currently forecast to cost the Ministry of Defence £889m for 54 aircraft, putting each aircraft at £16.5m or approximately $27m at today's rates. It is based on the Israeli Hermes 450 unmanned aircraft which is already in service with the British Army in Afghanistan under a lease arrangement pending Watchkeeper's arrival. Engines and airframes will be assembled in new UK factories (in a part-Israeli-owned joint venture) using licenced Israeli technology and some European components.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.