Thales UK confirmed meeting another milestone for the Watchkeeper program with the validation of the unmanned aerial vehicle’s automatic take-off and landing system, MAGIC ATOLS.

Watchkeeper will provide the U.K. armed forces with an essential Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance capability, and will be a key component of the U.K.’s network enabled capability. Thales U.K., as prime contractor for the Watchkeeper program, will deliver equipment, training and facilities, with the capability planned to enter service in 2010.

This trial, or test, is one of a comprehensive series of trials taking place over the next year and follows the first successful flight tests of the Watchkeeper in April, the company said Aug. 12.

July 23, Watchkeeper’s automated take-off and landing flights using Thales MAGIC ATOLS were successfully performed and validated as U.K. Ministry of Defence officials looked on at the Megido airfield in northern Israel.

Watchkeeper has been designed for automated take-off and landing.

Mark Barclay, managing director of Thales UK’s aerospace business, watched the demonstration flights, saying: "This is a major step forward on the Wathkeeper program and one of a number of trials that are scheduled over the forthcoming months. The MAGIC ATOLS system controlled the take-off and LS system controlled the take-off and landing of several of the Watchkeeper air vehicle flights without the need for GPS. I was pleased to have the opportunity to be present on the day and the success of this demonstration is completely due to the close co-operation of the Thales and Elbit teams on the programme."

Thales’s MAGIC ATOLS is an accurate, automatic, compact system ensuring maximum safety, day, night, and in all weather conditions during the critical take-off and landing phases of fixed-wing UAV operations. It is GPS independent.

Watchkeeper air vehicles have both a MAGIC ATOLS and a GPS-based system to give redundancy in automated take-off and recovery eliminating the need for pilot skills.

The MAGIC ATOLS system has a non-intrusive stand alone architecture ensuring a quick and simple integration into any existing type of UAV system. In addition, the reduced logistic footprint permits a quick and easy deployment and is suitable for land force operations.

Production of the WATCHKEEPER system will take place at U-TacS (UAV Tactical Systems Ltd), the Thales UK and Elbit Systems joint company, based in Leicester.

Watchkeeper system production will be done at UAV Tactical Systems Ltd, the Thales UK and Elbit Systems joint company, based in Leicester.