Australia’s first drone testing facility will open by the end of 2020 after Queensland appointed defence contractors QinetiQ to oversee the project.
The $14.5 million complex will be situated at Cloncurry Aerodrome in the state’s north-west and will include access to a 2km long runway.
Queensland Minister for innovation Kate Jones said, “The Queensland 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.”
The flight test range (FTR) will consist of two runways, a dedicated hangar and workshop as well as surveillance radar and tracking equipment.
Initially, the site will support all weight classes of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) between 30-150 kilograms and will be available for bookings in the next few months.
Late last year, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk greenlit the development and said the facility would create 65 jobs in the region.
However, it’s now been announced that construction has already begun ahead of a 2020 opening.
QinetiQ Australia managing director Greg Barsby said, “QinetiQ manages some of the world’s most advanced range facilities across the land, maritime and aerospace domains.
“By drawing on our global experience, QinetiQ and our partners will deliver this facility, the largest of its kind in the region.”
In April, Australian Aviation exclusively revealed how the number of ‘near encounters’ between drones and manned aircraft doubled in three years.
Figures obtained from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) show there were 194 such occurrences last year, up from just 87 in 2016.
The rise in reported cases is likely due to the explosion in drone ownership, with the ATSB now estimating there are at least 50,000, and possibly hundreds of thousands, of remote piloted crafts in Australia.