Drone test flights planned for Newquay air space
TEST flights of both civilian and military unmanned aircraft could soon take place in Newquay air space, it is hoped.
Newquay Cornwall Airport and West Wales Airport have struck a deal to operate the world’s first private facility that allows companies to develop pilotless planes of all sizes.
Under the joint banner of the National Aeronautical Centre (NAC), bosses at the two airports believe the move will allow the UK to capitalise on “one of the world’s major economic opportunities”.
The news was announced on Monday at an exclusive aviation industry event hosted at the Royal Society in London.
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Miles Carden, manager of the Newquay Aerohub, said the move could lead to a jobs boost for the county if developers of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), also known as drones, set up shop at the Enterprise Zone at Newquay’s airport.
He said: “It’s about creating an environment that might attract these kinds of systems to Newquay Cornwall Airport and potentially creating jobs. With the Enterprise Zone we can offer a significant amount of development land.”
Newquay Aerohub is the country’s only aerospace-focused Enterprise Zone - a Government-backed scheme aimed at attracting businesses with tax breaks and reduced red tape.
Mr Carden said Newquay also boasted one of the longest runways in the UK, at 3,000 metres, which meant it could host the largest unmanned aircraft.
An NAC spokesman said the centre was now open to civilian and military contractors and “has the capacity to deliver the necessary services and accommodation for all sizes of UAS envisaged for production and development over the next 20 years.”
Al Titterington, managing director of Newquay Cornwall Airport, added: “The global aerospace market is forecast to be worth four trillion dollars by 2030, yet the UK is currently forecast to see just 10 per cent of this investment. The UK aerospace industry has a major opportunity in the UAS market but first it must develop, demonstrate and prove that systems and sub-systems can contribute to ensuring safe and reliable operations, whilst being properly regulated.”
“The creation of the NAC has given the UK a world unique, national asset, where the development of new aerospace technologies, in the form of UAS, is now being undertaken. We are excited about announcing this launch in partnership with West Wales Airport.”
Ray Mann, head of the NAC, said the UK could not afford to be left behind in a competitive global marketplace.
He said: “This is an opportunity for the UK to lead the way. Together, West Wales Airport and Newquay Cornwall Airport are committed to being at the forefront of developments in this sector and we hope our vision will deliver rewards. We need to ensure that some current perceptions of civilian use of UAS don’t hinder the UK’s ability to capitalise on this exciting opportunity for economic growth.”
Richard Deakin, chief executive officer of NATS, the UK’s leading provider of air traffic services, added: “NATS has been controlling UAS for 40 years. We hold some of the world’s most respected experts in unmanned flight management and have been instrumental in developing and validating the procedures for unmanned flights in UK airspace.
“The NAC is a fundamental facility for growth in this industry and NATS is delighted to be involved in this launch as well as in future projects and commercial opportunities. The value of the UAS market has been forecast to be £30 billion per year by 2020 in the military sector alone. With the creation of the NAC, the UK is currently better placed than most others to create significant and sustainable economic benefit from this new industry, both from the military and civilian marketplace.”