Ok, so I have built a fixed-wing fully autonomous drone with a range of about 40km and a ceiling of about 1000m. It can beam video and telemetry back too. Mine cost a total of £450 quid compared to the 15.4M original per drone cost of the watchkeeper. Mine isn't all-weather either.
I appreciate a watchkeeper can operate 150km from its ground station (wish I had access to military tech!!!), fly for longer (16hrs vs the 3-4hrs I can get) but is there really £15,999,550.00 worth of difference in capability per drone ?
As there are many open source autopilot software and hardware projects around (and mine never thinks its landed when its 300ft up), I think a complete rethink is needed here.
This plane was around from 1999 in its initial form and technology has moved on apace in this time - in fact there has been an enormous shift from specialist/military only in 1999 to UAVs becoming consumer in recent years, meaning anything costing £15.4m should be, well amazing.
Maybe we should consider churning out drones that cost a few hundred grand each, which are reusable but no the end of the world if we lost one, but using the latest tech. I reckon a pretty amazing uav could be built for 100-200k that would outperform a watchkeeper and could probably fly when its a bit breezy too.