The Watchkeeper UAV could become part of Thales' plan to lease sensor capabilities. (Thales)
FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND — As part of a plan to lease and rent sensor capabilities to military and civilian customers, Thales has said it would consider leasing out the Watchkeeper UAV.
“We are seeing more ISR demand from civil customers, for uses such as oil rig work, but costs are high,” said Matt Avison, account director for ISR, C4ISR, Maritime and Security at Thales UK. Other missions where the firm could offer ISR packages could include anti-poaching and pipeline protection.
“So we are looking at managed services, including leasing and turnkey solutions, including planning, tasking and processing,” Avison said at the Farnborough International Airshow.
Thales’ starting point for managed ISR services was its Lydian program for the British Army in Afghanistan, Avison said, which offered a complete package of sensor coverage using the Hermes 450 UAV. Over the last nine months the firm has started talking to civilian customers about similar services and he predicted the business growing 10 percent annually.
“Sometimes a client could have a plane and a pilot, it would be a smorgasbord, a pick and mix,” Avison said. “There could be a mix of leasing and procurement,” he added.
A deal under which Thales operated and analyzed data from a Watchkeeper UAV would be an option, he said, “probably for a government customer monitoring drug and people smuggling.” The UK MoD has acquired the Watchkeeper.
At the show, Thales UK kitted out a Diamond DA42 aircraft with sensors to suggest the type of service offered, including a wide area IR scanner, a belly-mounted I-Master radar — designed for use on the Watchkeeper — an RF scanner, a Wescam EO/IR scanner under the nose and an Amascos mission system on board.
“We would work with rotary, UAV or fixed wing,” said Paul Mullowney, ISR sales and business development manager, said. ■