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Australia’s first drone testing facility to open in 2020

written by Adam Thorn | June 10, 2020

Cloncurry Aerodrome drone testing Queensland
Cloncurry Aerodrome drone testing Queensland

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.

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Comments (4)

  • JOHN


    Will make a nice B52 Runway, Away from Darwin’s Chinese owned port.

  • Nice photo of Cloncurry aerodrome. Looks like the sealed apron area has been greatly expanded, with dual taxiway access added, since I was last there way back in 1998 in an SA226T (Swearingen Merlin 3).

  • Bruce


    ATSB have rules about flying (drones or not) near or on airports so why is this airport so special?

  • J-tek


    How is it that we allow China , a non Allied Country, to own any airport or port in this country? Given China’s recent military build-up and political tensions we are exposed by air and sea ports. Just how much of our iron ore sold to China, is producing military hardware? Are we making the same mistakes as we did with Japan before WWII?
    Great Runway at Cloncurry, for our Hornets and F35’s if needed.

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