Advanced Composites Group Ltd (ACG), a member of the Composites Division of Umeco plc, has been qualified by global defence electronics company Elbit Systems to supply materials for the construction of the Thales Watchkeeper 450 (WK450) Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV).
Thales UK selected WK450 as the aerial platform central to their Watchkeeper surveillance system procured by the UK Ministry of Defence (UK MoD). The use of ACG's materials on the WK450, a development of the well established Elbit's Hermes 450 - constructed from ACG's LTM26EL prepregs, strengthens the ties that exist between ACG and Elbit Systems. The WK450 UAVs build is carried out by Lola Composites Ltd, Huntingdon - UK and integrated at U-Tacs in Leicester.
Selected from a number of contenders, ACG's MTM46 epoxy prepreg system, one of a series of Out of Autoclave (OoA) processing aerospace systems, meets the requirements of the UK MoD and offers the manufactures, Thales, Elbit and U-TacS, a number of process advantages. Developed by the Group's global research facility in Heanor - UK for use in the primary and secondary structures of FAR23 approved aircraft and UAVs, MTM46 can develop an initial glass transition temperature (Tg) of 180°C and offers excellent retention of mechanical properties under 'hot/wet' conditions. However, of great significance was the fact that MTM46 was developed for Out-of-Autoclave (OoA) processing. Following a low temperature/low pressure initial cure at 80°C, which can make use of low cost tooling, performance is further developed using a free-standing post cure to achieve the required material performance. Combined with excellent handling characteristics and extended out life of 60 days, MTM46 has proved to be an effective solution to the WK450's structural requirements.
The Thales Watchkeeper programme provides the UK Armed Forces with an unrivalled Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability. With the ability to stay airborne for extended periods, WK450 UAVs provide persistent surveillance with an advanced surveillance sensor suite and the Watchkeeper surveillance system provides 24/7 all-weather, day and night exploitation in times of war, tension or during peacekeeping operations without the need to deploy troops into sensitive or dangerous situations. Requiring a crew of just two to operate the system, with no pilot required, one operator controls the mission whilst the other tracks the information being fed from the WK450's sensors. The system is capable of rapid deployment and operation anywhere in the world.