To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many crashes or losses of the Watchkeeper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle have occurred; and what the reasons were for each such crash or loss.
27 March 2018
There have been four incidents involving the loss of a Watchkeeper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
On 16 October 2014, Watchkeeper UAV WK031, operated by a civilian crew from Thales, was involved in an accident while making a landing approach to West Wales Airport, Aberporth, during deteriorating weather conditions. A second accident involving Watchkeeper WK006, operated by a military crew, occurred on landing at Boscombe Down on 2 November 2015.
The Service Inquiry reports on these incidents contained a number of recommendations and actions have been taken, or are in hand, for all of these. The Service Inquiry panel also looked at the similarities between these incidents and concluded that, although some of the causal factors were different, the same flaw in the vehicle management system contributed to both accidents. The Equipment Standard 2 modification, which is currently being released, will update this. However, procedural mitigations have already been put in place to reduce the likelihood of re-occurrence.
Two Watchkeeper UAVs were involved in separate incidents on 3 February and 24 March 2017 in segregated airspace over Cardigan Bay in West Wales. On both occasions, the UAVs ditched in the sea. The Service Inquiries into the incidents are ongoing and the cause is not yet known. It would be inappropriate to comment further until the Service Inquiry reports are released.