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16 October 2015

Watchkeeper becomes first unmanned aerial vehicle to fly alongside commercial aircraft

Thales’ Watchkeeper has become the first unmanned aircraft to fly in controlled and unsegregated airspace. The flight, overseen by NATS, took place on 30th September and lasted for approximately three and a half hours. News of the event was greeted with delight by Altran’s Intelligent Systems division, which has acted as Thales’ Safety Partner on the Watchkeeper project since its inception and has supported NATS on a number of safety-related projects for over a decade. 


Mike Pickering, Head of Defence at Altran UK, commented: “This mark of progress is a testament to the excellent work being carried out by our exemplary team of safety engineers. It is a great privilege to work with Thales on a project that will change the shape of the aviation industry in the coming years.”

The flight comes as key stakeholders, including Thales, CAA, NATS and the MOD, collaborate to safely integrate unmanned air systems into civilian airspace. A second test flight is scheduled to take place next week.

About Altran

Altran is a leading global provider of high-tech engineering services. For over 30 years, we have been defined by our passion for innovation.

As a trusted partner of organisations throughout the rail, automotive, aerospace, defence, energy and telecoms sectors, we enable our clients to work smarter in developing, deploying and maintaining leading-edge systems and products.

Altran is an Official Engineering Partner of the ground-breaking Solar Impulse project and a Technical Partner of Lotus F1 Team.

In the UK, we have offices in Bath, Bristol, Derby, London, Slough and Warwick. Additionally, a significant number of our engineering consultants and project teams are located at our clients' sites. Globally, Altran has more than 24,000 'Innovation Makers' in more than 20 countries, and 500 major clients.