Britain’s electronics expert QinetiQ has developed a variant of its AS3 communications intelligence (COMINT) system designed specifically for unmanned aerial vehicles. Following an integration, with Thales’s Watchkeeper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) the AS3 is now ready for initial test flights.
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. 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 is part of QinetiQ’s ASX family of COMINT equipment, designed for UAVs and small manned aircraft. It enables the operator to detect signals from military communications devices and then locate, identify and listen to the individuals using them.
The development and integration into Watchkeeper were done jointly by Thales and QinetiQ, Qunder a collaborative program supported by the Ministry of Defense Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).
“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, analyzed and distributed securely, we deliver proven advantage to customers.” Ian Fuller, Campaign Lead for Airborne Surveillance in QinetiQ said.
The COMINT payload adds to other Watchkeeper sensors that currently include electro-optical payloads and Thales I-Master Synthetic Aperture Radars (SAR) and communication relays. The drone can carry two payloads simultaneously. Both I-Master and AS3 provide hemispheric coverage while the EO payload covers a small target area with high definition.