Snowdonia flight testing centre applies for permission to test more drones

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An aerospace testing and development centre at Snowdonia, Wales has applied to the UK Civil Aviation Authority for a permanent danger area to be designated at its site so it can run more flight tests for unmanned drones and other new types of aircraft.

Snowdonia Aerospace, which is based at Llanbedr Airfield is a UK centre for testing next-generation aircraft said that increased use of its site for testing unmanned drones, electric aircraft, balloons, airships and near-space aircraft required a permanent danger zone to be established.

Danger areas, also called restricted areas in UK airspace prevent aircraft straying into places where there is risk from airborne activities, such as military aircraft training, weapons or aircraft testing. The danger areas are only active when in use, and remain open to air traffic when not.

Snowdonia Aerospace Centre (SAC) said that 90% of the operations that use the danger area will be over the airfield or out over the sea. The proposal is part of a long term masterplan for Llanbedr Airfield that aims to create up to 515 jobs.

Lee Paul, CEO of Snowdonia Aerospace said, “We are continuing to develop complementary business opportunities at Llanbedr Aerodrome relating to aerospace Research, Development, Test and Evaluation.

“To support these operations it has now become necessary for us to seek to upgrade and formalize the current airspace around the Aerodrome as the present provision is insufficient to meet the identified future need and risks restricting opportunities that are in the strategic economic interest of the UK and Welsh governments.

“Moving to a permanent danger area will allow an increase in throughput to satisfy the market need and provide UK businesses in these sectors with a surety of being able to operate in the UK on a reactive basis. Many UK businesses have chosen to undertake their testing abroad due to the uncertainties around availability of adequate and appropriate commercial trials environments.

“All danger areas in the UK are presently managed and controlled on behalf of the MOD with limited opportunities for commercial use and exploitation.”

According to SAC, its permanent danger area will be the first civilian managed airspace of this type established in the UK.

John Idris Jones, chair of the Snowdonia enterprise zone advisory board said, “This airspace designation change is a key enabler in the longer term development of the site as a location for quality job opportunities in space related research and development and the evaluation of aircraft being developed to use low carbon fuels to meet the Government’s 2050 carbon emissions reduction target.”

John Whalley, CEO of industry association Aerospace Wales, said, “This proposal by Snowdonia Aerospace Centre is hugely important in ensuring that Llanbedr will play a lead role in the development of future flight concepts.”

The consultation is open from from 7th December 2020 to 22nd January 2021 and can be viewed here.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before eventually becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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