A damning Ministry of Defence report into the department’s safety oversight systems has revealed when two unmanned aerial vehicles crashed into the sea off Wales.
The Watchkeeper WK450-series drone fleet, built and partially operated by French defence contractor Thales, has been marred by a number of crashes in British service over the past few years.
The MoD has tried to keep the crashes hidden from the public, not admitting they had happened until a chance remark made by an admiral in September disclosed this year’s incidents.
The two drones, tail numbers WK042 and WK043, crashed within seven weeks of each other, in February and March this year. Both “remotely piloted aerial systems” (RPAS) were lost in Cardigan Bay, immediately west of West Wales Airport, Aberporth, causing the remaining 52 drones to be grounded for four months.
The Watchkeeper is undergoing lengthy flight testing with the Army. Initially proposed as a surveillance drone, the programme has achieved relatively little for the 12 years and £1.2bn+ spent on it, though the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found two years ago that the drones had seen a total of 146 hours of active duty – equating to two days’ operational flying each.
Source: The Register