The Queensland Government is building a $14.5 million commercial drone flight testing facility at Cloncurry Airport in the state’s north-west, bringing high-technology industry and more jobs to the region.
Construction is underway on the facility, and is scheduled to be completed in mid-October. The flight test range is expected to be operational soon after.
The project will provide a key missing element for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) research and development.
The ground facilities and airspace will create an authorised and safe environment for testing and trialling small to large unmanned aerial systems. It will be the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
The facility will include a hangar, buildings to provide office space and house monitoring equipment, range control systems, a surveillance radar and amenities.
This is the first stage of a world-class aerial drone test facility to attract investment and innovation in Queensland.
QinetiQ Australia has been appointed to oversee construction of the facility. The common-user facility will be available for use by commercial users, industry and academia for a fee.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the facility was a key part of the government’s strategy to support a diverse economy in the North West and create more jobs for locals.
“This facility is creating 65 jobs during construction and will bring ongoing benefits to the region.
“It’s just one of 13 innovative diversification initiatives that tap into the potential of the North West, and further proof that by working together with local councils and the community, we can grow Queensland’s economy.”
Minister for State Development and Minister responsible for the Queensland Drone Strategy Cameron Dick said “The Palaszczuk Government is creating more jobs in more industries, bringing world-class, cutting-edge aerospace technology to the Queensland outback.
“Our government was the first in Australia to launch a drone strategy, and now we’re well on the way to becoming the nation’s drone technology capital.
“We have secured the world’s largest aerospace group, The Boeing Company, to be the first to conduct trials at the facility, creating an exciting new aerospace industry for the region.”
Boeing Director of Phantom Works International Shane Arnott said the company is looking forward to using the flight facility in 2020 to safely and securely test the latest advances in unmanned systems technology.
“The creation of what will be one of the world’s largest commercial unmanned flight test facilities is critical to establishing Australia as a global leader in autonomous technology,” Dr Arnott said.
The Palaszczuk Government will invest $14.5 million in the first stage of the facility, which will be built on airport land and include a hangar, operation room and surveillance radar and communications equipment.
The facility will test small-to-medium sized drones weighing between 30-150 kilograms. Mr Dick said during the initial stages of operation drones will make test flights over short distances of up to 25km along a designated flight path away from built-up areas.
Cr Greg Campbell, Mayor of Cloncurry, said the announcement is a major win for Cloncurry and the North West.
“This will create a hub for aerospace R&D that will be a new high-tech industry for the region, to create jobs and boost the local and state economy,’ he said.
The facility will also support the initiatives of the Palaszczuk Government’s North West Queensland Economic Diversification Strategy Implementation Plan 2019-2021, released this week.