Electronics firm QinetiQ has won a £5m contract to test the UK Ministry of Defence’s new UAV system.

Qinetiq will be conducting airborne tests of the Watchkeeper UAV at the ParcAberporth test site in Wales during the next 18 months.

The £800m Watchkeeper project will deliver 54 UAVs to The British Army for surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

A notable feature of the programme is that two Watchkeepers can operate in tandem, with one collecting information and the other acting as a communications relay.

The Thales-built Watchkeeper weighs 450kg and can carry a payload of 150kg, with a typical flight time of 17 hours.

It is due to enter service in mid-2010.

By Tim McAtackney