The UK has conducted a series of exercises with a virtual unmanned air vehicle (UAV)operating with live forces to provide data for the on-going Watchkeeper programme.

During recent exercises at the BATUS training area in eastern Canada, the UK Defence Procurement Agency (DPA)funded participation of the virtual UAV to assess command and control options for tactical UAVs such as Watchkeeper.

Commanders from army units, including the airmobile 16Air Assault Brigade, were able to control the virtual UAV over the battlefield. The virtual UAV provided a "view" of the real world. For example, flying over a main battle tank, the virtual UAV would display an image of the vehicle in the ground station.

DPA says the four teams which received Watchkeeper study contracts in September - led by BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin UK Government Systems, Northrop Grumman and Thomson Racal Defence - attended the trials, giving them "access to the user community during a live exercise".

Maj Tony Potter of the DPA's tactical UAV integrated project team, says the exercise allowed the companies to observe the command function as it experimented with the UAV.

The virtual UAV had two capability levels. The smaller machine featured an electro-optical/ infrared (EO/IR)sensor and had a 30km (16nm) range and a maximum 1,000ft (300m)operating altitude, similar to the original Sender unit-level UAV requirement. The larger platform included a moving target indicator (MTI)radar and EO/IR sensor, longer range and a 10,000ft operating altitude, equivalent to the Spectator formation-level UAV specification. Sender and Spectator have been combined within the Watchkeeper studies.

Source: Flight International