QinetiQ’s AS3 communications intelligence (COMINT) system is ready to fly as a payload on Thales’s Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicle.

Part of QinetiQ’s ASX family, AS3 is designed specifically for UAVs and small manned platforms. It enables the operator to detect signals from military communications devices and then locate, identify and listen to the individuals using them.

Fitted to Watchkeeper, AS3 is designed to increase the UAV’s sensor footprint and enable it to work with ground-based systems, such as QinetiQ’s MEWS, to locate military communications with greater precision. The company say it allows the platform to undertake communications intelligence missions that would normally be carried out by larger more strategic platforms, such as multi-engine business jets.

AS3’s integration into Watchkeeper is the culmination of a jointly funded collaborative project between Thales and QinetiQ, with its roots in a contract with Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). The achievement follows a rigorous programme of engineering and safety case activity, which saw QinetiQ design, test and manufacture a bespoke chassis to hold the AS3 payload in place.

Ian Fuller, Campaign Lead for Airborne Surveillance in QinetiQ said:

“We are proud to be working with Thales to increase Watchkeeper’s potency as a world-leading intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) solution.

Having combined our technologies and expertise to enhance the platform, we look forward to demonstrating the new capability in its first flight trials. By ensuring vital intelligence can be gathered, analysed and distributed securely, we deliver proven advantage to customers.” 

AS3Mark Stead, Director for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance at Thales in the UK, said:

“We are very pleased to be working with QinetiQ to demonstrate the flexibility and modularity of the Thales Watchkeeper Unmanned Aircraft System.  

Achieving such interoperability and positive results is a testament to the joint collaboration and respective expertise. We look forward to flight trials of the joint capability in the near future to demonstrate this additional utility it brings to unmanned intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR).”

The AS3 payload will appear on the QinetiQ stand, S2-550, at Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), from 12 to 15 September 2017. At the Thales stand, S6-110, the software will be displayed on the Watchkeeper console.

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Mike Saul

Watchkeeper still not operational with 47 regt RA. So far 3 written off due to accidents, another UK MOD procurement mess.

Dave simpson

You do like subjective statements Mike

Mike Saul

Fact. WK not yet operational with 47 regt. Fact. 3 WK have been written off due accidents. Opinion. considering WK is 50% over budget and was suppose operational in 2013 how else can it be described other than a procurement mess? Try to get hold of today’s daily telegraph, go to page 2 interesting article on WK and were we went wrong on its procurement. Interesting little story for you direct from a gunner serving in 47, if a WK develops a fault whist flying on a training mission out Aberporth then the WK has to be ditched in the… Read more »


Looks like a positive improvement, considering the watchkeeper appeared to be redundent before it even entered service. It would be interesting if they were to add some offensive options to increase its role in force protection duties.

Mike Saul

‘The problem with Watchkeeper is it’s yesterday’s technology pretending to be tomorrow’s.”

A quote from Chris Wood, journalist.

Mike Saul

A couple of years ago there was a proposal from the RA to ditch watchkeeper and replace it Hermes 900 which would be purchased off the shelf from Israel.

The proposal was based on the experience of UK military personnel who were detached to Elbit for user training on watchkeeper/Hermes 450.

The proposal came to nothing on the basis that too much money and effort had been spent on wk450.